Malaysia is canceling arrangements for the visa-free entry of nationals from North Korea
as the diplomatic relations between the two Asian countries growingly strain over the recent assassination of the North Korean leader’s exiled half-brother in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia’s state news
agency Bernama cited Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as announcing the decision on Thursday. He said Kuala Lumpur had made the decision due to national security reasons.
As of Monday, when the decision will be enforced, North Koreans will be required to obtain a visa to enter Malaysia.
Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader’s half-brother, was attacked by two female assailants at the departure hall of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13. The attackers, both of whom have been arrested, wiped some form of toxic liquid over Kim’s face. He died en route to the hospital.
Later forensic research and autopsy on Kim’s body revealed that the female attackers had wiped the extremely toxic VX nerve agent over the victim’s face. The UN has declared VX a weapon of mass destruction.
Malaysia also detained two men, one of them a North Korean national, identified as Ri Jong Chol, in connection with the killing. However, Mohamed Apandi Ali, Malaysia’s attorney general, said on Thursday that Ri would be released and deported to his home country on Friday, some two weeks after he was arrested, because there were “insufficient evidence to charge him.”
Malaysia also said that it “strongly” believed that four North Korean suspects, who fled Malaysia on the day of the killing, had arrived in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. South Korea’s intelligence service claims that the four suspects are “spies” working for North Korea
’s Ministry of State Security.
A composite image of the four men whom Malaysian police are looking for in connection with the killing of Kim Jong-nam
South Korean police have already claimed that Kim was killed by North Korean agents, an allegation that Kuala Lumpur has yet neither confirmed nor denied.
Pyongyang, however, flatly denied Seoul’s allegations last Thursday.
Malaysia has refused to turn over Kim’s body to North Korea and has sought to question a North Korean diplomat in connection with the killing. Malaysian police also seek to question an employee of the North Korean airliner Air Koryo.
On Wednesday, the magistrates’ court in Kuala Lumpur announced murder charges against the two women attackers over the assassination. The two, identified as Siti Aisyah from Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese national, will face the death penalty if they are convicted of the murder charge.
The assassination and subsequent developments have soured relations between Malaysia and North Korea and seem likely to lead to an all-out diplomatic rift.
The file photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L), and his murdered half-brother Kim Jong-nam
Jong-nam, who studied in Russia and Switzerland, was a computer enthusiast and fluent Japanese speaker. After completing his overseas studies, he oversaw North Korea’s information technology policy. He fell from grace in 2001, however, and had been living in exile since 2003. He was reportedly an occasional critic of Pyongyang, advocating reform.
His death is the second most high-profile death during the reign of his younger brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, since the execution of Jang Song-thaek, the brothers’ once powerful uncle, in December 2013.