KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s prime minister Monday said he expects no apology from North Korea over its comments on the investigation into the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, as Pyongyang’s ambassador faced a deadline to leave the country.
On Saturday, Malaysia declared Ambassador Kang Chol persona non grata and gave him 48 hours to leave the country for failing to issue an apology for his criticism of Malaysia’s investigation into the murder.
Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of Pyongyang’s leader, was poisoned February 13 with the deadly nerve agent VX. North Korea has not acknowledged the dead man’s identity but has repeatedly disparaged the murder investigation, accusing Malaysia of conniving with its enemies.
Asked by reporters whether he will demand an apology from Pyongyang, Prime Minister Najib Razak replied: “Right now we are not getting anything. I don’t expect anything.”
“They should have apologized based on principles, [so]we have declared him persona non grata,” added Najib, speaking to reporters after a ceremonial opening of parliament in Kuala Lumpur.
South Korea has blamed the North for the murder, citing what they say was a standing order from leader Kim Jong-Un to kill his exiled half-brother who may have been seen as a potential rival.
The diplomatic spat erupted last month when Malaysian police rejected North Korean diplomats’ demands to hand over Kim’s body.
Kang then claimed the investigation was politically motivated and said Kuala Lumpur was conspiring with “hostile forces,” referring to the North’s arch-rival, Seoul.
Malaysia summoned Kang for a dressing-down, with Najib saying the ambassador’s statement was “diplomatically rude.”
Malaysia has also recalled its envoy to Pyongyang and cancelled a rare visa-free travel deal with North Korea.
Malaysia issued a February 28 deadline for an apology, which passed and then expelled the ambassador when he failed to present himself at the foreign ministry when summoned on Saturday.
The foreign ministry has said the expulsion is “part of the process by the Malaysian government to review its relations” with North Korea.
Kang was expected to leave on a flight to Beijing on Monday evening, officials told AFP.
With media camped for a third week outside the North Korean embassy, Kuala Lumpur Monday buzzed with speculation on would happen if Kang refused to leave.
“He will not be able to hide at the embassy forever. It is better that he surrenders voluntarily… so that he can be sent back,” Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan was reported as saying by the New Straits Times newspaper.
A senior government official, who did not want to be named, told AFP: “If no action is taken by Pyongyang within a reasonable period of time, the government will cease to recognize Kang as a member of the embassy and will accordingly be stripped of his immunities.”