North Korea’s top diplomat, Ri Su Yong, wrapped up his journey to Southeast Asia days earlier than expected, canceling a scheduled visit to Indonesia, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday.
On October 24, Ri, vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), left Pyongyang to participate in the 18th of the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties (IMCWP) in Hanoi and to visit Indonesia, North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
Ri was due to arrive in Indonesia on Monday night via Hong Kong, but he canceled his visit at the last minute and returned home, Yonhap said, quoting unnamed sources familiar with the situation.
Yonhap reported that Ri stopped his journey once a planned meeting with Megawati Sukarnoputri, former Indonesian President and current leader of the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), fell through.
“Vice-chairman Ri seemed to be taking the opportunity to break through the diplomatic isolation in the wake of the North’s nuclear test and ballistic missile launch,” Yonhap reported, quoting its sources as saying. “But it didn’t turn out as he intended.”
Ri stays in Beijing on Tuesday, but he plans to depart for Pyongyang later in the day, Yonhap added.
As of 1700 KST (0800 GMT) on Tuesday, North Korea’s state-run media hasn’t yet reported on Ri’s visit to Indonesia.
An expert based in Seoul said Megawati had failed to reach a deal with the Indonesian government over the issue of Ri’s state visit.
“Former President Megawati has a close relationship with the North, and she has attempted to act as a mediator on the Korean Peninsula in the past,” Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies (UNKS) told NK News.
“Considering the situation, Megawati wants to meet former foreign minister Ri Su Yong to flash back to their bilateral ties in the past and to discuss ways to move forward together in the future.”
Megawati’s aide said she had planned to convey a message from the then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun to Kim Jong Il when she visited the DPRK in April 2005, Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported. The last time Megawati visited the DPRK was in September 2011, three months before Kim Jong Il died.
Megawati, however, reportedly canceled a scheduled visit to the North ahead of the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in October 2015, South Korean media Chosun Ilbo said.
“The Indonesian government has been engaged in the movement to impose sanctions against the North along with the UN Security Council,” Yang said. “They also have to consider their relationships with the U.S. and the South.”
“Therefore, the government may express their opinion to [Megawati], saying that it’s better not to hold talks with the North. Discord between the government and Megawati is likely to negatively affect Ri’s visit.”
Indonesia established its diplomatic relations in 1964, and the two countries praised their mutual friendship even after a series of missile launches and nuclear tests in the early 2010s.
Indonesia’s media Jakarta Post said Kim Yong Nam was slated to meet then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on April 16, 2012. But the report was made only three days after the North launched a long-range rocket on April 13 in the same year.
“Amid nuclear deadlock between North Korea and world’s major powers, Indonesia has shown its eagerness to have more engagement with the secretive nation…,” the Jakarta Post reported in October 2013, eight months after the DPRK conducted its third nuclear test on February 12, 2013.
Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, condemned the North for their fifth nuclear test on September 9, 2016, saying the test was “not in line with the spirit of creating peace and stability in the region and the world.”
Featured Image: UN Photo