North Korea, Malaysia’s diplomatic ties frayed over Kim Jong Nam’s death

(CNN)Diplomatic relations between Malaysia and North Korea are getting more strained by the day, in the wake of the brazen public murder of Kim Jong Nam.

On Monday, North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia said investigators were conspiring with “hostile forces”. In retaliation, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak described the statement as “diplomatically rude” and recalled his ambassador.
But North Korea and Malaysia weren’t especially diplomatically close even before the killing of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother.
“They had a very good relationship — I think Malaysians are just normal, friendly, and trying to maintain a working relationship with North Korea,” said Jong Kun Choi, Associate Professor of the Yonsei University Political Science and International Studies Department.
“You don’t want to call it a friendship … From the southeast Asian states’ perspective is North Korea critical? No, not really.”


If North Korea did attempt a public assassination with diplomatic consequences, it wouldn’t be the first time. In 1983, North Korean agents set off a bomb in Yangon in an attempt to kill then-South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan.
It killed more than 20 people, though Chun escaped. In response, Myanmar broke off relations for more than a decade. There are suggestions it may do the same now with Malaysia.
“North Korea had a pretty significant relationship with Myanmar, I would say more important than its current relationship with Malaysia and it completely squandered that relationship in order to try to assassinate the South Korean president,” Delury said.
Professor Jong said if the assassination was proven to be committed by North Korea, it could lead to the severing of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“(If proven) it’s essentially a violation of Malaysian sovereignty … North Korea might value the killing of Kim Jong Nam much more than the bilateral relationship (with Malaysia). But it’s speculation at the end of the day,” he said.

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