Indonesia's president has invited Kim Jong-il, leader of North Korea, to Jakarta for talks on how to reduce tension with South Korea, a presidential spokesman said Wednesday.
Kim Jong-il, who rarely travels abroad, has said he "welcomed" the offer and also invited President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to North Korea, spokesman Dino Djalal said. He said possible dates for both trips were still being discussed.
The invitation was passed to North Korea by Indonesia's special envoy to the Koreas during a trip to North and South Korea last week, Djalal said. It was unclear how Kim, who generally shuns planes, would travel to the Indonesian archipelago. During one of his rare trips to Russia, he went by train all the way to Moscow.
The offer is the latest effort by Indonesia to mediate in the dispute.
In January, South Korean Defence Minister Yoon Kwang-ung said during a visit to Jakarta that he would like to meet his North Korean counterpart on the resort island of Bali to discuss ways to reduce tensions between the two countries.
Defence ministers of North and South Korea last met in September 2000 on the South Korean resort island of Jeju after first-ever inter-Korean talks in June that year.
The two nations remain technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire rather than a peace treaty. Ties have warmed significantly since a summit meeting of leaders from two sides in 2000, but tensions persist over the North's nuclear ambitions.
Indonesia and North Korea have historical ties.
The country's first president, Sukarno, was a close friend of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's late father, Kim Il-sung. Sukarno's daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, was Indonesian president between 2001 and 2004 and has kept up a friendship with Kim Jong-il.
End of financial sanctions urged
North Korea will only return to Six-Party Talks on its nuclear program if the United States drops sanctions against it, a North Korean official said Wednesday as talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang ended in rancour.
"The condition is to remove the financial sanctions," said Song Il-ho, North Korean ambassador to bilateral discussions with Japan in Beijing. "If the Japanese tell the US, they will actually listen to them more carefully."
The United States in recent months has cracked down on firms suspected of involvement in counterfeiting, money laundering and drug trafficking by North Korea.
(China Daily February 9, 2006)