PETALING JAYA, Feb 27 — Malaysia has a number of options at its disposal which could be exercised against North Korea in its diplomatic spat following the murder of Kim Jong-nam, says local think-tank Pacific Research Centre Malaysia.
Its principal adviser Oh Ei Sun said among the steps Malaysia could take was to declare North Korean ambassador Kang Chol a “persona non grata”.
“Considering the incendiary remarks issued by the ambassador, Malaysia could declare Kang Chol a persona non grata, which means his presence here is not appreciated,” he said.
“This would require him to leave the country within a stipulated time depending on how long the embassy requests or as required by our government.”
While this move may appear harsh, Oh said, this would not tantamount to severing ties with North Korea, whose embassy in Malaysia is only one of 24 worldwide.
“This is a diplomatic manoeuvre. First the North Korean ambassador was summoned to Wisma Putra and then our ambassador Mohamad Nizan Mohamad was recalled from Pyongyang,” he said.
“Being recalled does not mean we are cutting ties. Nizan was brought back for consultation and he will return at the discretion of the government.”
In the event diplomatic ties were cut, Oh said, the ambassador and his staff were protected by their status as foreign representatives.
“This is not like the movie 300 when the Greeks killed the Persian ambassador after they had a disagreement. If ties are cut, Malaysia will have to allow them to leave with all their staff and belongings. They cannot be touched unless North Korea waives their diplomatic status,” he said.
Oh said an example of diplomatic immunity being waived was when Malaysia waived the immunity of Muhammad Rizalman Ismail, who was accused of attempted rape in New Zealand.
“Malaysia behaved in a gentlemanly fashion and sent the accused for trial. That is how civilised countries resolve diplomatic incidents, not through threats and accusations.”
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar had said two suspects in the assassination of Jong-nam at KLIA2 on February 13 were hiding out at the North Korean Embassy in Damansara Heights.
The embassy denied the claim and refused to present the suspects — one of whom is the embassy’s second secretary — for questioning.
Malaysia established diplomatic relations with North Korea on June 30, 1973, and has enjoyed good bilateral ties with the otherwise internationally shunned country.
Oh said North Korea stood to be the bigger loser should diplomatic ties cease between the two countries.
“North Korea has precious few countries that it has diplomatic relations with. They cannot afford to lose friends,” he said.