North Korean embassy staff vacate premises in Kuala Lumpur following diplomatic spat

On Sunday morning, a bus was seen entering the embassy grounds.
On Sunday morning, a bus was seen entering the embassy grounds.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Staff of North Korea's embassy vacated its premises in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday (March 21).

Issuing a statement before leaving, North Korean counsellor Kim Yu Song said that the Malaysian government will bear the consequences of what had transpired.

"This incident is an outright product of an anti-DPRK conspiracy created from a heinous policy by the United States, " he said, using the North's official name of Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Mr Kim added that the incident "deprived the state of its sovereignty" and added that the Malaysian authorities are "blindly gaining favour" with the US.

"The Malaysian authorities deliver our citizen to the US, thus destroying the entire foundation of our bilateral relations," said Mr Kim.

Earlier this month, a Kuala Lumpur court ruled for the extradition of one of its citizens, Mun Chol Myong, to the US to face money laundering charges.

On Sunday morning, a bus was seen entering the embassy grounds. The vehicle entered the compound, passing through a police checkpoint in front of the embassy.

The departure of embassy staff follows Malaysia's denouncing of North Korea's decision to sever diplomatic ties. In an immediate response, North Korea ordered all diplomatic staff and their dependants at Pyongyang's embassy in Kuala Lumpur to leave the country by this weekend.

In a strongly worded statement on Friday, Wisma Putra - Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs - described the North Korean unilateral decision to cut ties as "unfriendly and unconstructive" and that it was against "the spirit of mutual respect and good neighbourly relations among members of the international community".

"The government of Malaysia is now compelled by the decision of the DPRK to close the embassy in Pyongyang whose operation has been suspended since 2017," the foreign ministry said.

"At the same time, the government will issue an order for all diplomatic staff and their dependants at the (North Korean) embassy in Malaysia to leave Malaysia within 48 hours from today, " it added.

It is understood that there were 33 North Koreans, including diplomatic employees' family members, at the embassy.

The departure came after North Korean state media KCNA reported that it would sever diplomatic relations with Malaysia after Mun's extradition to the US was granted.

The report stated that North Korea's foreign affairs ministry had warned that Washington would pay a price for its actions.

Mun was arrested in 2019 after the US accused him of laundering funds through front companies and issuing fraudulent documents to support illicit shipments to North Korea.

He fought the extradition request, arguing that it was politically motivated.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry called the extradition a "nefarious act and unpardonably heavy crime" by the Malaysian authorities, who had "offered our citizen as a sacrifice of the US hostile move in defiance of the acknowledged international laws".

The report said Malaysia's actions had destroyed "the entire foundation of the bilateral relations based on the respect for sovereignty".

Malaysia and North Korea were previously embroiled in a diplomatic row after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged brother Kim Jong Nam, was killed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang in February 2017.

The incident happened when two foreign women reportedly smeared his face with a VX nerve agent that was listed as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.

Following that, Malaysia suspended operations at its embassy in Pyongyang after securing the safe return of nine citizens detained within its embassy compound in exchange for the release of Mr Kim Jong Nam's body and the release of three of its Kuala Lumpur-based diplomats.

Diplomatic relations appeared to be warming up with a reassurance from the Pakatan Harapan federal government in 2018 but it failed to fully materialise.