Hopes for Korean summit in Indonesia dashed

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Hopes for Korean summit in Indonesia dashed

There will be no inter-Korean summit this month in Indonesia.

Pyongyang recently informed the host of the Asian Games that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be unable to travel to Jakarta due to his “political schedule,” a high-level South Korean official exclusively told the JoongAng Ilbo Friday.

Local authorities believe Pyongyang has decided to dispatch Kim Il-guk, president of the North’s National Olympic Committee, for the opening ceremony instead. Kim Jong-un will apparently stay behind preparing for the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s founding, which falls on Sept. 9.

With that decision, South Korean President Moon Jae-in will also not be participating in the opening ceremony slated for next Saturday in the Indonesian capital, said the local government source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Blue House is said to have decided to send Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon.

If Kim Jong-un and Moon had met in Indonesia, it would have been their third summit and first outside Korea. The first bilateral meeting between the leaders was held on April 27 on the South’s side of the truce village of Panmunjom, while the second was held on May 26 on the North’s side.

The Blue House believed that another leaders’ meeting between the two Koreas might have helped resolve an impasse in ongoing Pyongyang-Washington denuclearization talks. Indonesia had been intent on hosting the meeting as well.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo summoned the ambassadors of both Koreas on April 30 and expressed his intention to invite their leaders to the Games. The Indonesian president dispatched a special envoy to Seoul on July 27 and another to Pyongyang on July 30 to relay his invitation to the leaders.

Moon said he would decide whether to go or not based on his schedule and “circumstances,” which, according to sources in the Blue House, meant Kim’s participation.

Moon and Kim agreed in their first summit that Moon will travel to Pyongyang this fall for a summit, but even that remains uncertain.

A high-level inter-Korean meeting that has been scheduled for Monday in Panmunjom will open discussions for a third inter-Korean summit, said the Blue House Friday, but the meeting in the North Korean capital this autumn may not be held.

The Blue House spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, said Seoul will have to check on whether Pyongyang prefers a different time and venue, adding that those matters weren’t entirely fixed yet.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North, said that the high-level meeting was requested by Pyongyang Thursday morning.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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