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Outrageous to ‘reward’ Pyongyang with KL embassy, says veteran diplomat

Free Malaysia Today logo Free Malaysia Today 13/6/2018 FMT Reporters
a person in a car © FMT MEDIA SDN BHD

The bungalow which houses the North Korean embassy in Bukit Damansara, where Malaysian police failed to question suspects in the murder of Kim Jong Nam.

PETALING JAYA: A former Malaysian diplomat has questioned Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s move in agreeing to the normalisation of ties with North Korea and the reopening of its embassy in Kuala Lumpur, describing it as “premature” when only a year ago, Pyongyang was implicated in a murder committed in Malaysia.

a man wearing a suit and tie © FMT MEDIA SDN BHD

Dennis Ignatius

Dennis Ignatius, who has close to four decades of experience in the Malaysian Foreign Service including as the ambassador to Canada, Chile and Argentina, said Pyongyang’s behaviour in the murder case of the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was “outrageous, disrespectful and went against all the norms of diplomatic behaviour and interstate relations”.

“It must not be forgotten that North Korea carried out an assassination on Malaysian soil using a deadly nerve agent.

“It subsequently held members of our diplomatic mission in Pyongyang hostage until North Korean personnel implicated in the attack were allowed to leave Kuala Lumpur,” he told FMT.

He was responding to the prime minister’s announcement that the embassy, shut down in the wake of a stand-off over North Korea’s refusal to hand over diplomatic staff implicated in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam in February last year, would be reopened.

Jong Nam, who had a falling out with his half-brother Jong Un, was killed on Feb 13 last year in an attack at the low-cost carrier airport klia2 in Sepang, hours before his flight to Macau.

Two women, a Vietnamese and an Indonesian, who allegedly wiped his face with a substance identified in an autopsy as the banned VX nerve agent, were charged with murder on March 1.

The case made world news and resulted in a diplomatic row between Putrajaya and Pyongyang, with the US and South Korea saying the murder was orchestrated by North Korea.

Attempts by Malaysian police to interview several suspects who took refuge in the North Korean embassy in Bukit Damansara failed. Instead, Pyongyang demanded the return of Jong Nam’s body.

It later refused to allow nine Malaysians at the embassy in Pyongyang to leave the country until this demand was met. In a tit-for-tat action, Malaysia barred North Korean diplomats from leaving, but ultimately acceded in exchange for the safe return of the Malaysians.

Mahathir’s announcement agreeing to Pyongyang reopening its embassy followed the meeting in Singapore between Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.

Dennis, a strong critic of the previous government’s deals with China, said reopening the embassy “sends the wrong signal to the regime and rewards them for their outrageous behaviour”.

“It was one of those embassies which should never have been opened in the first place,” he said, adding that Malaysia had little to benefit from closer ties with North Korea.

“At a time when the nation is trying to rebuild its economy, funding an embassy in Pyongyang is simply a waste of public funds.”

Malaysia to reopen embassy in North Korea

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