North Korea to sever ties with Malaysia

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Wisma Putra denounced the decision as unfriendly and unconstructive.

North Korea said it would sever diplomatic relations with Malaysia after a Kuala Lumpur court ruled earlier this month for the extradition of one of its citizens to the United States to face money-laundering charges.

North Korea’s foreign affairs ministry also warned Washington would “pay a price”, in a statement carried by North Korea’s state media KCNA.

A statement from North Korean did not name its citizen, but in early March, Malaysia’s top court ruled that a North Korean man, Mun Chol Myong, could be extradited.

EPA

Mun had been arrested in 2019 after the United States accused him of laundering funds through front companies and issuing fraudulent documents to support illicit shipments to North Korea. He fought the extradition request, arguing that it was politically motivated.

The North Korean foreign ministry called the extradition a “nefarious act and unpardonably heavy crime” by Malaysian authorities, who had “offered our citizen as a sacrifice of the US hostile move in defiance of the acknowledged international laws.”

Malaysia’s actions had destroyed “the entire foundation of the bilateral relations based on the respect for sovereignty,” it said.

The North Korean embassy in Bukit Damansara here is already making plans to close its operations, as soon as possible.

Yusof Mat Isa

The embassy’s charge d’affaires Kim Yu Song confirmed that he was preparing for the shutdown, following advice from his superiors in Pyongyang.

“Yes, we will be shutting down. We are now discussing the plans with our staff here and liaising with our government,” he said.

Asked if the embassy, located in Jalan Batai near the Royal Commonwealth Club would issue an official statement, Kim said he was contemplating one.

Malaysia and North Korea were previously embroiled in a diplomatic spat after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged brother, Kim Jong Nam, died at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang in February 2017.

The incident happened when two women reportedly smeared his face with a VX nerve agent that was listed as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.

Subsequently, Malaysia suspended operations at its embassy in Pyongyang after securing the safe return of nine citizens detained within its embassy compounds, in exchange for the release of Jong Nam’s body and the release of three of its Kuala Lumpur-based diplomats.

Diplomatic relations appeared to be warming up with a reassurance from the Pakatan Harapan federal government in 2018, but it failed to fully materialise.

Foreign reports alleged that North Korea had used Malaysia as a hub for its arms export operation and setting up business entities for funnelling money to North Korea’s leadership.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the administration of President Joe Biden would complete a review of its North Korea policy in the next few weeks in close consultation with allies.

Meanwhile, Wisma Putra said Malaysia deeply regrets North Korea’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Malaysia.

“Malaysia denounces the decision as unfriendly and unconstructive, disrespecting the spirit of mutual respect and good neighbourly relations among members of the international community,” said the ministry in a statement.

Malaysia is now compelled by the decision of the North Korean government to close the Malaysian Embassy in Pyongyang, which operation had already been suspended since 2017.

Wisma Putra also said the Malaysian government will issue an order for all the diplomatic staff and their dependents at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to leave Malaysia within 48 hours from today.