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Many options open to Malaysia in spat with North Korea: Expert

PETALING JAYA — Malaysia has a number of options that could be exercised against North Korea in its diplomatic spat following the murder of Kim Jong-nam, said local think-tank Pacific Research Centre Malaysia.

North Korean ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol speaking to the media. Photo: AFP

North Korean ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol speaking to the media. Photo: AFP

PETALING JAYA — Malaysia has a number of options that could be exercised against North Korea in its diplomatic spat following the murder of Kim Jong-nam, said local think-tank Pacific Research Centre Malaysia.

Its principal adviser, Dr Oh Ei Sun, said among the steps Malaysia could take is to declare North Korean ambassador Kang Chol a “persona non grata”.

“Considering the incendiary remarks issued by the ambassador, Malaysia could declare Kang Chol a persona non grata, which means his presence here is not appreciated,” Dr Oh said.

“This would require him to leave the country within a stipulated time depending on how long the embassy requests or as required by our government.”

While this move may appear harsh, Dr Oh stressed that this would not amount to severing ties with North Korea, whose embassy in Malaysia is only one of 24 worldwide.

“This is a diplomatic manoeuvre. First, the North Korean ambassador was summoned to Wisma Putra and then our ambassador Mohamad Nizan Mohamad was recalled from Pyongyang,” he said.

“Being recalled does not mean we are cutting ties. Nizan was brought back for consultation and he will return at the discretion of the government.”

In the event diplomatic ties were cut, Dr Oh said, the North Korean ambassador and his staff are protected by their status as foreign representatives.

“This is not like the movie 300 when the Greeks killed the Persian ambassador after they had a disagreement. If ties are cut, Malaysia will have to allow them to leave with all their staff. They cannot be touched unless North Korea waives their diplomatic status,” he observed.

Dr Oh said an example of diplomatic immunity being waived was when Malaysia waived the immunity of Muhammad Rizalman Ismail, who was accused of attempted rape in New Zealand.

“Malaysia behaved in a gentlemanly fashion and sent the accused for trial. That is how civilised countries resolve diplomatic incidents, not through threats and accusations.”

Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar previously said two suspects in the assassination of Jong-nam at KLIA2 on Feb 13 were hiding out at the North Korean Embassy.

The embassy denied the claim and refused to present the suspects – one of whom is the embassy’s second secretary – for questioning.

Malaysia established diplomatic relations with North Korea on June 30, 1973, and has enjoyed good bilateral ties with the otherwise internationally shunned country.

Dr Oh noted that North Korea stood to be the bigger loser should diplomatic ties cease between the two countries.

“North Korea has precious few countries that it has diplomatic relations with. They cannot afford to lose friends,” he said. MALAY MAIL ONLINE

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