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World

North Korea cuts ties with Malaysia over US extradition

  • North Korea's foreign ministry announced the "total severance of the diplomatic relations with Malaysia", according to state news agency KCNA, saying the citizen being extradited had been involved in "legitimate" trading activities in Singapore.
19 Mar 2021

SEOUL: North Korea severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia on Friday, abruptly shutting down a once-close relationship that took a major downturn following the shock assassination of Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother in Kuala Lumpur airport four years ago.

Pyongyang's foreign ministry said it was responding to Malaysia's extradition of a North Korean citizen to the United States earlier this month -- a move it labelled an "unpardonable crime" carried out under "blind obedience" to US pressure.

Malaysia had been one of the nuclear-armed country's few allies until the North Korean leader's relative, Kim Jong Nam, was murdered with a banned nerve agent as he waited to catch a flight from Kuala Lumpur.

Ties plunged after the Cold War-style hit but had started to get back on track with Malaysia announcing the re-opening of its Pyongyang embassy -- but Friday's surprise move put a swift end to that.

North Korea's foreign ministry announced the "total severance of the diplomatic relations with Malaysia", according to state news agency KCNA, saying the citizen being extradited had been involved in "legitimate" trading activities in Singapore.

The move came after a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin to South Korea, the second leg of an Asian tour to bolster a united front against the nuclear-armed North and an increasingly assertive China.

On Thursday, the North accused the new US administration of adopting "lunatic theory", ruling out any engagement with Washington unless it changed course.