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US diplomat briefs Indonesia on North Korea standoff

A top U.S. diplomat briefed Indonesian leaders about the North Korean nuclear standoff Tuesday, saying Indonesia has an important role in global affairs as a new, non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Christopher Hill, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, was also expected to talk about ways in which the world's most populous Muslim nation could help ease spiraling tensions in the Middle East.

Indonesia and North Korea have historical ties, and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has expressed interest in playing a mediating role in the nuclear dispute. All three planned trips to Pyongyang for talks with Kim Jong Il, however, have been canceled.

"We discussed foreign policy issues because, as you know, Indonesia is on the Security Council," Hill said after meeting with lawmakers and government leaders.

"I gave a little briefing on North Korea and what we're trying to do," said Hill, who is also the chief U.S. negotiator at six-country talks aiming for nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula.

Indonesia and the United States have traditionally been allies, though ties were strained for several years because of allegations of widespread human rights abuses by Indonesian troops.

However, those concerns have largely been dropped since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States amid Washington's push to develop strong ties with potential allies in the Muslim world.

On Tuesday, Hill said Indonesia-U.S. relations were "in very good shape."

Hill is on a tour of Southeast Asia that has seen him stop in Vietnam and the Philippines. He said after Jakarta he would visit China to discuss North Korea's nuclear standoff with officials there.

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