JUST IN: North Korean Ambassador Leaves Malaysia

North Korea’s ambassador left Malaysia on Monday evening after he was expelled for making disparaging remarks about the country and challenging its motives in investigating the killing of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korea’s ruler.

The ambassador, Kang Chol, who had questioned the Malaysian police’s findings and suggested that Mr. Kim had died of heart failure rather than by poison, was declared “persona non grata” on Saturday and given 48 hours to leave.

At the airport, Mr. Kang told reporters that the “extreme measures” taken by the Malaysian government were doing “great harm” to relations between the two countries.

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia said Mr. Kang had been expelled because he had not apologized for his comments when asked to do so.

“Anyone who comes here must respect us,” Mr. Najib said, according to The Star, a Malaysian newspaper. “If they made baseless accusations, they should rightfully apologize and take back what they said. But they didn’t do that, so we have taken action to declare the person as persona non grata.”

Mr. Kim was killed on Feb. 13 as he prepared to check in for a flight at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The police said that two women, one from Vietnam and one from Indonesia, had smeared nerve agent on Mr. Kim’s face. The women have been charged with murder.

The Malaysian police are seeking seven North Korean men in the case, including a diplomat stationed in Malaysia. The South Korean government has accused North Korea of organizing an assassination.

Declaring an ambassador persona non grata is one of the harshest diplomatic measures a nation can take against another country, short of breaking off relations.

North Korea announced Monday evening that it had declared Malaysia’s ambassador persona non grata and had ordered him to leave. However, Malaysia had already recalled him for consultations last month.

On Monday, Malaysia stopped allowing North Koreans to enter the country without a visa. It also said that its national soccer squad would not be allowed to play in an Asian Cup qualifying match on March 28 against the North Korea team in Pyongyang.

While diplomats from North Korea generally keep a low profile, Mr. Kang angered Malaysian officials by saying that his country “cannot trust” the police investigation, and by accusing Malaysia of colluding with outside powers to defame North Korea.

Although Mr. Kang had never acknowledged that the deceased man was the half brother of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, he had sought to have the body handed over to the embassy before the Malaysian authorities could conduct an autopsy.

After the autopsy was performed, Mr. Kang questioned Malaysia’s finding that Mr. Kim had been killed with the nerve agent VX, a weapon banned by international conventions but known to be in North Korea’s arsenal.

Mr. Najib, in a televised interview that aired on Sunday, said that the use of a banned chemical nerve agent was “totally unacceptable.” The use of VX could have killed many more people than just the intended victim, he said. Mr. Najib did not name either of the Kim brothers or North Korea.

“We have to accept the fact that a crime has been committed in Malaysia,” the prime minister said in the interview with Al Arabiya television. “The substance, or the weapon used, is a very, very dangerous chemical weapon, which should not be used at all, because if used in large quantities, many, many people could have been killed, not just one person.”

The interview was recorded last week before the two women were charged with murder and before Malaysia ordered Mr. Kang’s expulsion. Mr. Najib noted that VX is classified as a weapon of mass destruction.

“We have to take a very serious stance,” Mr. Najib said. “We are very determined to find out the truth and that the people responsible should be brought to justice.”

Source: NY Times

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