Editorial: Ties-breaker

North Korean diplomats vacated their embassy in Malaysia and prepared to leave the country Sunday, after the two nations cut diplomatic relations in a spat over the extradition of a North Korean criminal suspect to the United States.

The North Korean flag and embassy signage have been removed from the premise in a Kuala Lumpur suburb. Two buses ferried the diplomats and their families to the airport, where they were seen checking in for a flight to Shanghai.

Ties between North Korea and Malaysia have been virtually frozen since the 2017 assassination of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Two days after Kuala Lumpur extradited a North Korean man to the US to face money laundering charges, a furious North Korea on Friday announced it was terminating ties with Malaysia. Malaysia denounced the decision and in a tit-for-tat response, gave North Korean diplomats 48 hours to leave.

Kim Yu Song, the charg d’affaires and councilor in Kuala Lumpur, said Malaysia had committed an unpardonable crime. Echoing Pyongyang’s earlier statement, he accused Malaysia of being subservient to the US and being part of a US conspiracy aimed at isolating and suffocating his country.

The Malaysian authority delivered our citizen to the US in the end, thus destroying the foundations of the bilateral relations based on respect of sovereignty, he said in a short statement outside the embassy, before heading to the airport.

North Korea has called the money laundering charges an absurd fabrication and (a) sheer plot orchestrated by the US and warned Washington will pay a due price. Some experts say cutting ties with Malaysia was North Korea’s way of showing anger with President Joe Biden’s administration, without jeopardizing an eventual return to nuclear negotiations with Washington. North Korea has insisted it won’t engage in talks with Washington unless it abandons what Pyongyang’s perceives as a hostile policy. But experts say North Korea will eventually seek to return to diplomacy to find ways to get sanctions relief and revive its moribund economy. Meanwhile, Malaysia has defended its move to extradite Mun Chol Myong, saying it was carried out only after all legal processes have been exhausted.

 

NT Bureau