Malaysia has expelled North Korea’s ambassador to Kuala Lumpur for criticizing an investigation into the assassination of the North Korean leader’s exiled half brother, saying the envoy must leave Malaysia within the “next 48 hours.”
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said in a statement released late on Saturday that he had declared Kang Chol “persona non grata” and that Kuala Lumpur had not yet received an apology over the North’s attack on its probe into the case, even though it had demanded one earlier in the week.
“The expulsion of the DPRK [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] ambassador is… an indication of the government’s concern that Malaysia may have been used for illegal activities,” the statement said.
Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader’s half brother, was attacked by two female assailants at the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13. The attackers, both of whom have been arrested, wiped some form of toxic liquid over Kim’s face. He died en route to the hospital.
Later forensic research and autopsy on Kim’s body revealed that the female attackers had wiped the extremely toxic VX nerve agent over the victim’s face. The United Nations has declared VX a weapon of mass destruction.
North Korea has censured Malaysia for performing an “immoral and illegal” autopsy on the dead body of “a citizen” of North Korea “bearing a diplomatic passport” without acknowledging the dead man’s identity. Pyongyang has also vehemently protested the probe and questioned its validity, claiming Malaysia is in cahoots with its enemies.
In response, Malaysia canceled visa-free entry for North Koreans on Thursday and recalled its envoy to Pyongyang. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the decision on visa had been taken for “national security reasons.”
The Malaysian top diplomat also said his country “will react strongly against any insults made against it or any attempt to tarnish its reputation.”
South Korea’s police have already claimed that Kim was killed by North Korean agents, an allegation that Kuala Lumpur has yet neither confirmed nor denied. Pyongyang, however, flatly denied Seoul’s allegations on February 23.
The assassination of Kim and subsequent developments have soured relations between Malaysia and North Korea, which had warm and full mutual ties, and seem likely to lead to an all-out diplomatic rift.