Malaysia yesterday expelled Pyongyang's envoy to Kuala Lumpur, the strongest possible diplomatic action over the alleged assassination of Mr Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said in a statement late last night that Ambassador Kang Chol was summoned to his ministry yesterday evening, but no official from the embassy turned up.
"For this reason, the ministry has, via a diplomatic note sent to the embassy this evening, (informed) the DPRK government (and) His Excellency Mr Kang Chol that the Malaysian government has declared him Persona Non Grata. He is expected to leave Malaysia within 48 hours from the scheduled time of the meeting, namely 6.00pm, 4 March 2017," the statement said.
According to Datuk Seri Anifah, Malaysia had, in a meeting on Feb 28 with North Korean officials, demanded a written apology from North Korea over accusations by the ambassador that Kuala Lumpur was subverting investigations into Mr Kim's Feb 13 murder as part of a political conspiracy with Pyongyang's enemies.
"The DPRK delegation was informed that if no response is received by 10pm that day, the Malaysian government would take measures that would best protect its interests. Almost four days have passed since the deadline lapsed.
"No such apology has been made, neither has there been any indication that one is forthcoming.
"For this reason, the Ambassador has been declared Persona Non Grata," he added.
A person declared Persona Non Grata in diplomatic terms is barred from entering or remaining in the host country. It is the most serious form of disapproval that a country can apply to foreign diplomats.
The expulsion of the North Korean Ambassador comes on the heels of a decision by Kuala Lumpur to rescind visa-free travel for North Koreans to Malaysia.
Yesterday, deported North Korean suspect Ri Jong Chol accused Malaysia of using coercion to try to extract a confession from him.He said he was presented with false evidence in Malaysia, and police showed him pictures of his family in detention. "I realised that this is a conspiracy, plot, to try to damage the status and honour of the republic," Mr Ri told reporters outside the North Korean Embassy in Beijing. He was on his way to Pyongyang via the Chinese capital.
He was arrested two weeks earlier and deported last Friday after police found insufficient evidence against him. Mr Kim was poisoned in Kuala Lumpur's international airport last month with deadly nerve agent VX, which is classed as a weapon of mass destruction.
Mr Ri said he was not at the airport on the day Mr Kim was killed, and knew nothing about the accusation that his car was used in the plot. He added that he had worked in Malaysia trading ingredients needed for soap.
South Korea and the United States believe the murder was an assassination carried out by North Korean agents. Yesterday, North Korea warned of severe consequences should the US put Pyongyang on a terror list over the killing.
The South Korean and Japanese media have reported that the US has been considering reinstating North Korea on its terror list, which includes Iran and Syria.
"The US will keenly realise how dearly it has to pay for its groundless accusations against the dignified" North if it puts it back on the terror list, AFP reported the regime's Foreign Ministry spokesman telling state-run newswire KCNA.
The US designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1987 after its agents bombed a South Korean planeand killed all 115 on board. It was taken off the list in 2008 after Pyongyang took steps to freeze its nuclear facilities.