North Korea abruptly severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia on Friday, ending a special relationship with Kuala Lumpur until the 2017 assassination of leader Kim Jong Un’s brother.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry justified the decision on March 17 by Malaysian authorities, who deported one of its nationals to the United States, calling it an “unforgivable crime” of slavery in the face of American pressure. ”.
Until the assassination of Kim Jong Nam four years ago, Malaysia was one of North Korea’s only allies, isolated due to its nuclear program. The North Korean leader ‘s brother, a regime critic, also died after receiving a nerve agent on his face at the Kuala Lumpur airport.
South Korea has blamed the killings mostly in the north. Pyongyang denied.
Relations gradually improved as Malaysia decided to reopen its embassy in Pyongyang.
Friday’s announcement put an end to this warm-up.
According to a statement issued by the official KCNA news agency, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry has announced that it is “completely severing its diplomatic relations with Malaysia.”
His Malaysian genius, who “deeply regrets” the attempt and ordered all North Korean diplomats to leave the country within 48 hours, condemned this friendly and constructive decision, which does not respect mutual respect and good neighborly relations between members. International Association ”.
The North Korean agency said North Korean national Mun Chol Myong was “involved in legal foreign trade activities in Singapore” to be handed over.
The Malaysian ministry has defended her extradition, criticizing North Korea for pressuring Kuala Lumpur to intervene in the case, explaining that it happened only after all appeals were over.
The split comes the day after two senior American officials from the new Biden administration visited South Korea.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are touring Asia to strengthen Washington’s ties with traditional partners in the region facing North Korea and China.
On March 9, Mun Chol Myong rejected his last appeal against extradition to the United States, where he faces money laundering.
Mr Munn, who is in his 50s and has been living in Malaysia for a decade, was arrested in 2019 after requesting deportation from Washington.
In court, he denied allegations by the FBI (American Federal Police) that he led a criminal group responsible for exports to North Korea in violation of international sanctions and also laundered funds through shell companies.
During his tenure in Singapore, he was charged with four counts of money laundering and two counts of money laundering, his lawyers said.
Authorities did not say what items he smuggled into North Korea. Exports of alcohol, watches and other luxury items have been revealed in other cases in the past.
A large police presence was set up on Friday in front of the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur where many journalists came to film after the Pyongyang announcement.
According to Shahriman Lockman, a foreign policy expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian officials “see this as part of a diplomatic signal sent by North Korea to the United States, which indicates a gradual escalation of tensions in Pyongyang and Washington.”
Malaysia and North Korea had particularly friendly relations until 2017, but after the assassination of Mr Kim, the two countries deported their ambassadors and terminated the mutual visa waiver agreement for visitors.
As of December 2020, Seoul said North Korea has embassies in about 25 countries, including Cuba, Iran, Germany and its main ally China.
Pyongyang has long been accused of using its diplomatic representations for goo intelligence purposes, money laundering and violating international sanctions.