North Korea cuts ties with Malaysia over US extradition

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) — North Korea said yesterday it has terminated diplomatic ties with Malaysia over its decision to extradite a North Korean criminal suspect to the United States (US).

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.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the money laundering charges against the man are an “absurd fabrication and (a) sheer plot” orchestrated by “the principal enemy of our state”.

The statement said Malaysia “committed super-large hostile act … in subservience to the US pressure” and the US will “pay a due price”.

It’s unclear whether or when North Korea will pull its diplomats out of Malaysia since it has a history of backing away from threats.

Ties between North Korea and Malaysia have been virtually frozen since the 2017 slaying of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Observers believe no Malaysian diplomat is currently in North Korea.

Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry website said the North Korean Embassy is led by Kim Yu Song, the chargé d’affaires and councillor, and six other staff.

“Yes, we will be shutting down. We are now discussing the plans with our staff here and liaising with our government,” Kim was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

Malaysia has long been a crucial economic hub for North Korea, handling trade, labour exports and some illicit businesses in Southeast Asia. Experts said North Korea is taking a tough stance over the extradition because it sees it as a pressure tactic against the North.

A car goes out of the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. PHOTO: AP