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Indonesia Seeks Solution to North Korean Nuclear Crisis - 2003-02-08

An Indonesian diplomatic delegation begins a four-day visit to Pyongyang Saturday, in the latest international attempt to find a solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. The mission comes just days before the International Atomic Energy Agency meets to decide whether to refer North Korea's nuclear violations to the U.N. Security Council for possible action.

Indonesia's Foreign Ministry says it is sending the delegation in the hopes of diffusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, sparked by North Korea's recent nuclear activities.

Presidential envoy Nana Sutresna, a retired career diplomat who served as ambassador to both Britain and the United States, will lead the delegation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said the four-day mission will focus on trying to convince Pyongyang to resume talks with South Korea and the United States to find a diplomatic solution. "Indonesia is in a somewhat unique position in having access and links with both the North Korean government and the South Korean government, and of course needless to say with the U-S government as well," he said.

Indonesia's President Megawati Sukarnoputri made her first significant diplomatic foray last March, when she visited both North and South Korea. As the daughter of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno, observers say that Ms. Megawati has a personal rapport with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and may be able to break through diplomatic barriers. Their fathers worked together to establish the Non-Aligned Movement in the mid-1960s. Spokesman Natalegawa said Indonesia believes the best way to resolve the crisis is to end communist North Korea's years of isolation. "We've always felt the best outcome can be achieved through a policy of engagement. The North Korean government and people are used to being put in isolation, and they have proven to be able to go on in that state," he said.

The crisis began in October, when the United States accused North Korea of having a covert nuclear weapons program in violation of international accords.

After a U.S. led consortium suspended fuel aid to the North, Pyongyang reactivated its main plutonium-based power plant, which experts say is capable of producing material for weapons. North Korea also withdrew from the nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty and expelled U.N. nuclear monitors.

A series of diplomatic missions by Russia, Japan, Australia and South Korea have failed to make headway on the issue. North Korea is insisting on direct talks with the United States and a formal non-aggression pact. Washington says it is willing to talk, but not on those terms.

This will be Indonesia's first attempt to enter the diplomatic front on the North Korean nuclear issue. So far, it is not clear whether the Indonesian delegation will meet directly with Kim Jong Il.