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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea closes embassy in Malaysia as ties severed

Diplomats leave Kuala Lumpur over extradition of citizen to US

North Korea has had diplomatic relations with Malaysia since 1973.   © Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR (Kyodo) -- North Korea closed its embassy in Kuala Lumpur and its diplomats left Malaysia on Sunday after Pyongyang announced it was cutting diplomatic ties with the Southeast Asian country over the extradition of one of its citizens to the United States.

The North Korean announcement on Friday over the extradition of Mun Chol Myong, who is wanted by U.S. authorities on money laundering charges, prompted the Malaysian government to give North Korean Embassy staff and their dependents 48 hours to leave the country.

The two countries had established diplomatic ties in 1973.

Before leaving the embassy on the fringes of the city center, Charge d'Affaires Kim Yu Song read out a statement in which he slammed Malaysia for being "subservient" to the United States and laid all responsibility at Malaysia's feet.

"Not content with the putting of our innocent citizen in the dock by blindly favoring the U.S., the principal enemy of our state, the Malaysian authority delivered our citizen to the U.S. in the end, thus destroying the foundation of the bilateral relations based on the respect of sovereignty," Kim said.

The Malaysian Foreign Ministry has said the North Korean man was only extradited after due legal process had been exhausted.

In 2019, a Malaysian court ordered Mun to be extradited to the United States following his arrest earlier in the year. But he fought to remain in Malaysia, saying he had done nothing wrong.

Earlier this month, he lost his final appeal to Malaysia's top court.

Mun is accused of purchasing luxury goods like liquor and cigarettes with illicit funds and having them shipped to Pyongyang via China.

On Sunday, a group of about 30 North Korean diplomats and family members were driven to Kuala Lumpur International Airport in two buses. A diplomatic source said they were bound for Shanghai, China.

Announcing that it had expelled all North Korean diplomats, the Malaysian Foreign Ministry said Sunday its action was in response to North Korea's "utterly irresponsible decision" to sever diplomatic ties.

"The action by the Government of Malaysia has become a necessity in order to protect Malaysia's sovereignty and safeguard our national interest," it added.

Ties between North Korea and Malaysia have deteriorated since the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the airport in February 2017.

Malaysia later expelled the North Korean ambassador from the country and effectively closed its own embassy in Pyongyang. Malaysia has not dispatched any diplomats to the North Korean capital since.

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