North Korea announced the abrupt end of diplomatic ties with Malaysia Friday in response to Kuala Lumpur’s “unpardonable crime” of extraditing a North Korean citizen to the United States for trial.
The Malaysian government reacted initially with dismay, then pressured North Korea’s embassy officials to vacate the country as swiftly as possible.
The North Korean in question, Mun Chol Myong, is the first citizen of the country extradited to the United States. According to the FBI, Mun, a businessman, routinely violated sanctions on the rogue communist regime by laundering money and shipments of goods to North Korea. American authorities accuse Mun of specializing in laundering “prohibited luxury goods” by shipping them illicitly from Singapore to North Korea.
Malaysia has an extradition treaty with America, which it has decided to honor in Mun’s case but never has before with any North Korean citizen.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry issued a belligerent missive Friday declaring the nation would sever its diplomatic ties with Malaysia.
“On March 17, the Malaysian authority committed an unpardonable crime, in the end, of forcibly delivering the innocent citizen of the DPRK [North Korea] to the United States by having charged him with ‘criminal,'” the statement read:
This world-startling incident is an out-and-out product of anti-DPRK conspiracy created from the heinous policy of hostility by the United States aimed at isolating and suffocating our country and the pro-U.S. subservience by the Malaysian authority.
The statement defended Mun, without naming him, as a practitioner of “legitimate external trade activities.” It then referred to the government of Malaysia as “illegal and lawless riff-raff”:
It is nefarious act [sic] and unpardonably heavy crime that the Malaysian authority – a government as it is nominally called, though, – offered our citizen as a sacrifice of the U.S. hostile move in defiance of the acknowledged international laws, not content with its blind acceptance of and obedience to the U.S. unjust pressure.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry then accused Malaysian officials of enjoying a “drinking party” with American officials that resulted in a quid pro quo commitment to “sacrifice” a North Korean citizen.
“With regard to the grave situation that has prevailed, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK hereby announces total severance of the diplomatic relations with Malaysia which committed super-large hostile act against the DPRK in subservience to the U.S. pressure,” the statement concluded. “From this very moment, the Malaysian authority will bear full responsibility for all the consequences to be incurred between the two countries.”
The North Koreans also warned America would “pay a price” for the extradition, without elaborating.
Malaysia’s New Straits Times reported Friday North Korean diplomats had already begun packing to go home.
“Yes, we will be shutting down. We are now discussing the plans with our staff here and liaising with our government,” the charge d’affaires of the embassy, Kim Yu Song, told the newspaper.
Malaysia’s government issued a statement shortly thereafter rushing the North Koreans, issuing a 48-hour ultimatum for diplomats to leave the country permanently.
“Malaysia denounces the decision as unfriendly and unconstructive, disrespecting the spirit of mutual respect and good neighborly relations among members of the international community,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said in the statement.
Malaysia and North Korea enjoyed peaceful diplomatic relations for decades beginning in the 1970s, despite Malaysia’s amicable ties with the United States and the fact that North Korea and America have been technically at war since 1950.
In 2017, Malaysia expelled North Korea’s ambassador to the country, Kang Chol, in the aftermath of the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, dictator Kim Jong-un’s brother. Kim Jong-nam died in Kuala Lumpur Airport after one of his assistants, according to airport surveillance footage, grabbed his face. He suffered a seizure shortly after and Malaysian authorities confirmed he had been exposed to VX nerve agent, a chemical weapon. The North Korean regime formally rejected the autopsy performed by Malaysian professionals on Kim Jong-nam, outraging Kuala Lumpur.
After expressing outrage at North Korea’s “shocking” and “rude” diplomatic broadsides, Malaysia expelled the country’s ambassador.
The spat with Malaysia is the first sign that North Korea’s most recent campaign against the United States has begun to involve third parties. Pyongyang attacked America on several occasions this week in light of a report surfacing in Reuters that the administration of President Joe Biden had repeatedly attempted to reach out to North Korean leaders since February, but had been met with silence.
Choe Son Hui, first vice minister of Foreign Affairs, issued a statement this week confirming the report.
“The U.S. has tried to contact us since mid-February through several routes including New York,” the statement read in part. “We have already declared our stand that no DPRK [North Korea]-U.S. contact and dialogue of any kind can be possible unless the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK. Therefore, we will disregard such an attempt of the U.S. in the future, too.”