Malaysia bans travel to North Korea, soccer match postponed

KUALA LUMPUR (AP) – Malaysia yesterday banned its citizens from travelling to North Korea as the country faces increasing diplomatic pressure over its weapons programmes.

The travel ban prompted the region’s football governing body to postpone for the third time an Asian Cup qualifier match between Malaysia and North Korea scheduled for October 5 in Pyongyang. The match has already been delayed twice due to security issues.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said in a statement it will have to decide on the future status of the match.

Malaysia’s foreign ministry cited North Korea’s missile tests and related developments as the reasons for the travel ban and said it would last until further notice.

North Korea has been targeted in recent months by stricter sanctions and increasing diplomatic pressure, with Kuwait and Mexico expelling its envoys in recent weeks. Since July, North Korea has launched its first intercontinental ballistic missiles, flown midrange missiles over Japan into the Pacific and detonated its sixth nuclear test.

In this March 9 file photo, the North Korean flag is seen behind razor wire on top of a wall at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. – BERNAMA

Malaysia is one of its few remaining diplomatic partners in the world, even though tensions escalated after the North Korean leader’s estranged half-brother was killed at the Kuala Lumpur airport in February.

Both countries imposed travel bans on the other’s citizens that were lifted after a deal was reached in March.

Two women from Vietnam and Indonesia have been charged in the murder, widely believed to have been orchestrated by North Korea.