KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia said on Friday it will expel all North Korean diplomatic staff in Kuala Lumpur in response to Pyongyang’s announcement that it will sever relations with the Southeast Asian nation over the extradition of a North Korean man to the US to face money-laundering charges.
North Korea announced the move through its state media KCNA, saying it would cut ties with Malaysia after a Malaysian court ruled earlier this month that the North Korean businessman, Mun Chol Myong, should be extradited to the US.
“The 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, March 19, 2021,” Malaysia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
In response to North Korea’s accusation that the extradition of its national to the US was a “nefarious act and unpardonably heavy crime” and “in defiance of the acknowledged international law,” Malaysia said it was conducted in accordance with the principles of justice, rule of law and independence of judiciary.
“The extradition was carried out only after the due legal process had been exhausted,” the ministry said. “The rights of Mun Chol Myong while in custody in Malaysia were also guaranteed and fulfilled, including his access to his own defense counsel, as well as to consular assistance and visits by his family.”
The North Korean businessman was arrested in 2019 on charges of money laundering and violating UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang. Malaysian authorities said he was deported on Wednesday.
While the Malaysian foreign ministry said it “deeply regrets” North Korea’s decision to sever diplomatic ties, it denounced the move as “unfriendly and unconstructive.”
Malaysia was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with North Korea in the early 1970s. Relations soured after Kim Jong Nam, the estranged brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was killed at a Kuala Lumpur airport in 2017 with a nerve agent.
After the incident, Malaysia suspended its embassy operation in North Korea, which it now plans to close for good.
“The government of Malaysia is now compelled by the (North Korean) decision to close the Embassy of Malaysia in Pyongyang, which operation had already been suspended since 2017,” the foreign ministry said.
North Korean Embassy Charge d’affaires Kim Yu Song confirmed to Malaysian media that his mission was also closing.
“Yes, we will be shutting down. We are now discussing the plans with our staff here and liaising with our government,” he said