Wed. Apr 21st, 2021

By Hyung-jin Kim and Ellen Ng, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea on Friday announced an end to diplomatic relations with Malaysia over its court’s decision to extradite a North Korean criminal suspect to the United States. This is the latest development of growing hostility between Washington and Pyongyang as the northern deadlock pressured the Biden administration over a nuclear standoff.

The North Korea Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the US-based money laundering allegations against North Korean nationals living in Malaysia were perpetrated by an “absurd construction and (a) sheer conspiracy” by the “key enemy of our state”. “

The ministry said it was “announcing a complete break-up of diplomatic relations with Malaysia, which carried out major hostile acts against (North Korea) under US pressure.”

It warned that the United States would “pay a fair price.”

It is unclear whether North Korea will expel its diplomats from Malaysia. North Korea has a history of retreating from its threats. For example, it has been said that it would cut off communications with rival South Korea, which happened countless times before reaching Seoul.

Relations between North Korea and Malaysia have been frozen since the 2017 slaughter of a brother who was dropped at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2017 by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Observers believe that no Malaysian diplomat is currently in North Korea. Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry website said the North Korean embassy is led by Kim Yoo Song, Chare DeFaires and councilors and six other staff.

An important measure would be to deepen diplomatic relations. Malaysia has long been regarded as one of North Korea’s important economic centers, dealing with trade, labor exports, and some illegal businesses in Southeast Asia. Experts say North Korea is taking a tough stance on US-requested extradition, which it sees as part of US efforts to pressure the North.

“North Korea is taking a hard line because it feels it should not return (after extradition) because it will have a war of nerves with the Biden government over the next four years,” said Nam Sung-woo, a professor At Korea University of South Korea.

Naam said that North Korea is also concerned that it may face similar problems in other Southeast Asian countries if it does not strongly respond to the Malaysian extradition decision.

Threatening to cut ties with Malaysia was one of the strongest options, with North Korea expressing its anger with the Biden administration in Washington, Hong Min, a senior analyst at the Seoul Korea Institute for National Unification Are done without jeopardizing nuclear negotiations with them. said.

North Korea has insisted that it will not engage in meaningful dialogue with Washington unless it considers what it considers Pyongyang’s “hostile” policy. But experts say North Korea, whose sick economy is hurting more due to the epidemic, will eventually try to return to diplomacy to find ways to get relief from the sanctions.

Earlier this month, Malaysia’s top court rejected a claim by North Korean Mun Chol Myong that the US charge was politically motivated, ruling that he could be extradited. Mun lived in Malaysia for a decade and was arrested in May 2019 after US authorities requested his extradition.

In his affidavit, Mun denies US allegations that he was involved in supplying banned luxury goods from Singapore to North Korea in violation of UN sanctions while working in the city-state.

He denied that he lacked funds through front companies and issued bogus documents to support illegal shipments to his country. He said in his affidavit that he was the victim of a “politically motivated” extradition request aimed at pressuring North Korea over its missile program.

Following that decision, the North Korean embassy hired a lawyer to challenge the legality of the extradition. Lawyer Emile Ezra said that after the new legal bid focused on Mun’s authority, the court refused to accept his affidavit and also imposed an injunction to stop his extradition.

The statement from North Korea says that Mun has already been sent to the US. Ezra said that the police had not responded to her query and she could not confirm that Mun was still in Malaysia. He said he came to know from jail on Wednesday that Mun had been handed over to police custody.

Home Ministry officials in Malaysia could not immediately be reached for comment.

North Korea and Malaysia established diplomatic relations in 1973, but their ties suffered a major setback in 2017 over the assassination of Kim Jong Nam.

Two women – one from Indonesia and the other Vietnamese – were accused of colluding with four North Koreans to kill Kim Jong Nam after seeing his face with a VX nerve agent. The day Kim died, four North Koreans fled to Malaysia.

Malaysian authorities have never officially accused North Korea of ​​involvement in Kim’s death, but prosecutors made it clear throughout the trial that they suspected the North Korean relationship. North Korea has denied any role. The two women, who said they felt she was participating in a harmless prank for a TV show, were later released.

South Korea’s espionage service said North Korea tried to kill Kim Jong Nam for many years, though he once asked Kim Jong for a life of begging for the lives of himself and his family members after an assassination attempt. The letter was sent Long-time North Korea watchers believe that Kim Jong-un ordered his brother’s assassination as part of efforts to oust potential rivals and tighten their grip on power.

Malaysia revoked the visa-free entry for North Koreans and expelled North Korea’s ambassador Kang Chol after rejecting Malaysia’s investigation, insisting that the victim was a normal citizen who suffered a heart attack Dead.

Ng reported from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.

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