The Jakarta Post
Advice from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for South Korean President Moon Jae-in to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the 30th commemorative ASEAN-South Korea summit next year represents auspicious encouragement for Moon’s tireless efforts to end the decades-long nuclear tension on the peninsula.
Moon has promised to follow up on Jokowi’s decent proposal. Jokowi believes that Kim’s encounters with the leaders of the 10-member regional grouping would convince him that ending North Korea’s self-isolation is the only recipe for the country’s and his regime’s survival.
Very few in the world would trust in Kim’s sincerity over ending his nuclear weapon program, knowing his unpredictable record. Nevertheless, there is hope, albeit little, of seeing a different Kim.
Kim met with United States President Donald Trump in Singapore last June and promised complete denuclearization, while Trump pledged to reward him with the lifting of the United Nations’ economic embargo against the North. Until today, however, Washington is reluctant to soften the sanctions, saying Pyongyang has not done enough to honor its words.
Jokowi raised his idea during the ASEAN-South Korea summit in Singapore on Wednesday. The ASEAN leaders also met with other dialogue partners — China, Japan, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand — during the annual gathering.
“Hopefully, with this meeting [with Kim], North Korea’s commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula will grow stronger. In the future, God willing, we will see ASEAN and the two Koreas as important pillars in the regional architecture of peace and partnership to maintain stability, security and prosperity together,” Jokowi said, as quoted by Antara.
Moon said he had taken the advice into consideration. “As the Korean Peninsula situation moves toward peace, we will actively consider inviting Chairman Kim. We will consult closely with ASEAN nations in advance,” Moon said as quoted by the Yonhap news agency.
President Moon has made ASEAN a top priority under his government’s “southward policy”.
In the ASEAN chairman’s statement issued after the summit on Monday, ASEAN leaders praised North Korea’s commitment “to complete denuclearization and its pledge to refrain from further nuclear and missile tests”.
The work for ASEAN to do after the summit is to actively assure the North Korean leader that his presence in the next ASEAN-South Korea summit would benefit both him and his country. For Indonesia, Korean Peninsula diplomacy would require Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to negotiate with Seoul and Pyongyang.
Indonesia is among the few countries in the world that have maintained diplomatic relations with the communist state. Jakarta-Pyongyang ties date back to the era of founding president Sukarno in the early 1960s.
Jokowi’s initiative needs implementing. Kim’s attendance at the next ASEAN-South Korea commemorative summit can be a game changer in the global efforts to end the Korean nuclear crisis and to help North Korea rebuild a normal life and the world achieve a lasting peace.