President Megawati to Visit Four Asian Countries

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  • TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:President Megawati Sukarnoputri is preparing to make official visits to four Asian countries from March 25-April 4, 2002: the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, South Korea and India. According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda, these visits form part of Indonesia’s efforts to establish a more intensive relationship with neighboring Asian countries outside of the ASEAN community. Besides, the president’s visits will reciprocate the visits made by leaders from these countries some time ago. “It’s President Mega’s turn to visit these countries,” Hassan said. Hassan said the visits are also aimed at realizing Indonesia's free-active foreign policiy priorities. Thus, the president’s plan to visit North Korea will not have a negative effect for Indonesia. US President George W. Bush referred to North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an “axis of evil” in the State of the Union Speech read last Tuesday (29/01). According to Hassan, Mega's visit to North Korea forms only a small part of her excursion throughout Asian countries. Furthermore, the visit to North Korea will fulfil the invitation issued by North Korean President Kim Jong Il during the APEC meeting held in Shanghai last year. Hassan said Indonesia would increase its political cooperation with both North and South Korea, and he hopes Indonesia can provide significant support towards a peace process in the Korean peninsula. According to Hassan, one way to push for peace would be to challenge North Korea's development of nuclear power, including weapons of mass destruction, and to urge the country to employ nuclear power for more peaceful purposes. North Korean is well known for its capacity to construct guided missiles. The presence and development of such weapons are causing difficulties for negotiations in the peace process. The peace process in the Korean Peninsula was first forged ten years ago through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). This organization consists of many countries including the US, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and Indonesia. Recently, numerous problems have hampered talks between the US and North Korea. Hassan also mentioned that Australian Prime Minister John Howard would visit Indonesia on February 6-8, 2002. This visit is aimed at increasing bilateral relations between Indonesia and Australia. This will be Howard's second visit to Indonesia during President Megawati Sukarnoputri's administration.