March 07, 2017 11:43
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak hinted at the possibility of severing diplomatic ties with North Korea completely after it kicked out the North Korean ambassador over the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother, Kim Jong-nam.
Asked if it was possible that all ties with the rogue nation will be severed, Najib said Malaysia has to wait and see, according to the Star daily.
"We'll take it one step at a time," he told reporters, adding there has been no apology from Pyongyang for the envoy's increasingly frantic grandstanding.
After Malaysia identified North Korean operatives as suspects in the Feb. 13 killing at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Ambassador Kang Chol denounced the investigation as a plot orchestrated by South Korea.
"If they make baseless accusations, they should rightfully apologize and retract the statements. But he did not do that, so based on our principles we declared him persona non grata," Najib said.
On departure from Kuala Lumpur, Kang said, "The statements I've made are an expression of the righteous stand as ambassador" of the North, and, as a parting shot, accused Malaysian officials of "extreme measures."
Malaysia's defense minister dismissed the excuse. "Perhaps he sees it as his responsibility to North Korea's leadership, but we make decisions based on our sovereignty and our laws," Hishammuddin Hussein said.
North Korea retaliated by expelling the Malaysian ambassador, according to the official [North] Korean Central News Agency, but he had already been recalled on Feb. 20. The moves effectively end 44 years of relatively friendly diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities stopped the Malaysian football team from an Asian Cup 2019 qualifying match slated for March 28 in Pyongyang because of security concerns, and asked the Asian Football Confederation to change the venue to a neutral arena.
Malaysia's expulsion of Kang "made the current situation unsafe for Malaysians to travel to North Korea for the moment," Football Association of Malaysia's Secretary-General Hamidin Mohamad Amin said in a statement.
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