KOTA KINABALU • Malaysia's decision to expel North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol was to safeguard the nation's integrity, said the country's Deputy Prime Minister yesterday.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the decision came from the Cabinet and aimed to send a strong and clear message to the North Korean government not to manipulate Malaysia's investigations into the murder of Mr Kim Jong Nam.
"The statements by the ambassador were obviously aimed at manipulating the matter," Mr Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said after meeting Umno party leaders and members. He said the Malaysian authorities had carried out painstaking investigations into Mr Kim's assassination.
"We have been professional in our probe in terms of interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence, whether it was DNA samples or CCTV footage," he said.
Last Saturday, Malaysia's foreign ministry declared Mr Kang a persona non grata, and told the North Korean Embassy that Mr Kang must leave Malaysia by 6 pm today.
This expulsion came after Malaysia demanded a written apology from North Korea over accusations by Mr Kang that Kuala Lumpur was subverting investigations into Mr Kim's Feb 13 murder as part of a political conspiracy with Pyongyang's enemies. The demand was made during a meeting last Tuesday between Wisma Putra officials and a high-level delegation led by former North Korean ambassador to the United Nations Ri Tong Il.
No such apology was made.
A person declared persona non grata in diplomatic terms is barred from entering or remaining in the country. It is the most serious form of disapproval that the country can apply to foreign diplomats.
Mr Kim, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was killed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 departure hall on Feb 13 with what Malaysian police said was VX nerve agent, a highly toxic chemical weapon.
Last Wednesday, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong and Indonesian Siti Aisyah were charged with Mr Kim's murder, a crime that carries the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia. It is alleged that the women killed him by rubbing the VX nerve agent on Mr Kim's face.
Neither recorded a plea, and the case is next set for court on April 13.
North Korea has criticised Malaysia's handling of the case, threatening a diplomatic row between the two countries.
Last Thursday, the Malaysian government announced that North Koreans would no longer enjoy visa- free travel to Malaysia from today.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK