World

Najib: We won't allow North Korea to insult us

Malaysia's ambassador expelled from Pyongyang as KLIA assassination saga rolls on

SEOUL: North Korea said yesterday it would expel Malaysia's ambassador after its envoy was ordered out of the South-east Asian nation, in an increasingly bitter row over the assassination of Mr Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

"The Foreign Ministry of the DPRK (North Korea) notifies that the Malaysian Ambassador to the DPRK is labelled as a persona non grata... and demanded that the ambassador leave the DPRK," state news agency KCNA said, giving a 48-hour deadline, reported AFP.

The KCNA report came shortly after the North's Ambassador Kang Chol flew home from Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia's Ambassador to Pyongyang had already been recalled for consultations as the two countries traded barbs over an investigation into the killing of the North Korean leader's half-brother with VX nerve agent last month.

Malaysia's Foreign Ministry confirmed its ambassador to Pyongyang had been officially declared persona non grata.

"This reciprocal action is normal in diplomacy," said ministry director-general Raja Nurshirwan.

North Korea has not acknowledged the dead man's identity but has repeatedly attacked the murder investigation and demanded a second autopsy, accusing Malaysia of conniving with its enemies.

Airport closed-circuit TV footage shows two women approaching the 45-year-old victim and apparently smearing his face with a cloth. Police said he suffered a seizure and died less than 20 minutes later.

Two women, one Vietnamese and one Indonesian, are in custody and have been charged with the murder while police are seeking seven North Korean suspects, four of whom left Malaysia on Feb 13, the day of the assassination.

Police last week released the only North Korean they had arrested, citing a lack of evidence.

South Korea has blamed Pyongyang for the murder, citing what it says was a standing order from leader Kim Jong Un to kill his exiled half-brother.

North Korea's expelled ambassador, Mr Kang, fired a final salvo at Malaysia yesterday.

Speaking at KLIA before his flight was due to leave, Mr Kang disparaged what he called a "pre-targeted investigation by the Malaysian police".

He departed the embassy in a black chauffeured Jaguar and checked in a Philips TV, three suitcases and four boxes vacuum-wrapped and stamped with the words DPRK Pyongyang.

Malaysia declared Mr Kang persona non grata on Saturday and gave him 48 hours to leave the country after he failed to apologise for his criticism of the investigation. Malaysia has also recalled its envoy to Pyongyang and cancelled a rare visa-free travel deal with North Korea.

MATCH BAN

The row has also extended to sports, with Malaysia football authorities banning the national team from playing an Asian Cup qualifying match in Pyongyang - citing security threats in the wake of the expulsion.

Earlier, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, in condemning "insulting statements" by North Korean officials, said they should respect Malaysia's sovereignty.

He added that the move to expel Mr Kang reflects the fact that Malaysia is strict when it comes to the nation's honour and sovereignty.

As for an official apology from North Korea, he said: "Well, we are not getting anything and are not expecting anything." 
- AFP, THE STAR

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