PETALING JAYA: Just two days after Malaysia declared the North Korean ambassador Kang Chol persona non grata, the regime has done the same with our ambassador to Pyongyang in an apparent tit for tat.
Raja Nushirwan Zainal Abidin, deputy secretary-general for bilateral affairs, revealed in a statement issued today that Mohamad Nizan Mohamad had also been declared persona non grata by the North Korean government.
“This reciprocal action is normal in diplomacy. It should be noted that the Malaysian ambassador has been recalled by the government,” said Raja Nushirwan.
He added that Nizan is presently in the country.
Nizan was called back “for consultations” on Feb 20, hours before a diplomatic row erupted over the North Korean ambassador’s hard-hitting comments on Malaysia’s ongoing investigation into the murder of Kim Jong Nam.
Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said in a statement two days ago that Kang Chol was expelled after he failed to answer the summons to the foreign ministry to meet Raja Nushirwan.
Anifah said it could now be revealed that during a meeting between the ministry and the high-level North Korean delegation led by Kim Song, the Malaysian government had demanded a written apology from North Korea for the accusations its ambassador had levelled against Malaysia.
Kang Chol had claimed that Malaysia “had something to conceal” in Jong Nam’s death, adding that North Korea could not trust the Malaysian investigation as it was “politically motivated”.
Kang Chol said if Jong Nam was indeed murdered as alleged, Malaysia must take full responsibility.
He also hit out at Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, saying he had falsely made a claim on Jong Nam’s identity and accused Malaysia of colluding with foreign governments.
He added that Malaysia’s request for a second post-mortem, which he called an “attempt to mangle again his (Jong Nam’s) body”, was a violation of human rights and showed “how desperate they are to shift the blame to us”.
The row with North Korea began when Malaysia performed an autopsy on the murder victim despite objections from Pyongyang and refused to release the body until a family member came forward to provide a DNA sample.
Jong Nam, who was the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un, was murdered using the VX nerve agent, apparently by two women, while waiting to catch a return flight to Macau at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb 13.
It is understood that there are 11 Malaysians in North Korea. Nine are embassy staff and their family members while two are part of the United Nations’ World Food Programme.