After North Korea cuts ties, Malaysia orders its diplomats out

KUALA LUMPUR (AP) – Malaysia on Friday ordered all North Korean diplomats to leave the country within 48 hours, an escalation of a diplomatic spat over Malaysia’s move to extradite a North Korean suspect to the United States (US) on money laundering charges.

The announcement came hours after North Korea said it was terminating diplomatic ties with Malaysia because it committed a “super-large hostile act … in subservience to the US pressure.” North Korea called the money laundering charges an “absurd fabrication and (a) sheer plot” orchestrated by the US and warned Washington will “pay a due price.”

It’s the latest development in growing animosity between Washington and Pyongyang, as the North ramps up pressure on the Biden administration over a nuclear standoff.

Ties between North Korea and Malaysia have been virtually frozen since the slaying in 2017 of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry denounced North Korea’s move as “unfriendly and unconstructive.” It said the government will order all diplomatic staff and their dependents at the North Korea Embassy to leave Malaysia within 48 hours.

It added that Malaysia was also compelled by North Korea’s decision to shut its embassy in Pyongyang. Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein tweeted that all Malaysian diplomats in North Korea had returned after the embassy’s operations were suspended in 2017.

Journalists gather outside the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. PHOTO: AP