DPRK diplomats departed from Malaysia on Sunday, after Pyongyang cut ties with Kuala Lumpur over the extradition of one of its citizens to the US on money laundering charges.
Before the two buses containing diplomats departed for the airport, North Korean Charge d’Affaires Kim Yu Song read out a statement on the porch of the embassy, blasting Malaysia as “subservient” to Washington.
He accused Kuala Lumpur of “destroying the foundation of the bilateral relations based on the respect of sovereignty” by delivering an “innocent” North Korean citizen to the US, which is “the principal enemy” of Pyongyang.
The extradition was an “unpardonable crime” and the product of a US-led conspiracy aimed at “isolating and suffocating” the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the diplomat added.
The North Korean flag and embassy insignia were removed from the building in a Kuala Lumpur suburb, with the gates of the mission being chained up.
A group of some 30 diplomats and their family members reportedly took a flight to the Chinese city of Shanghai.
Pyongyang announced that it was severing ties with Kuala Lumpur on Friday, with the Malaysian authorities reacting by giving North Korean embassy staff 48 hours to leave the country.
Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry insisted on Sunday that the expulsion of North Korean diplomats was necessary to protect the country’s sovereignty and national interests. It also decried Pyongyang’s decision to cut ties as “utterly irresponsible.”
The falling out between the two countries occurred after Malaysia extradited DPRK citizen Mun Chol Myong to the US midweek.
Mun was wanted by American law enforcement over money laundering charges. He was allegedly using illicit funds to buy luxury goods, including liquor and cigarettes, and shipping them to sanctioned Pyongyang through China.
The man, who was arrested in 2019, denied any wrongdoing and employed all legal means to avoid extradition to the US. However, earlier this month Malaysia’s top court rejected his final appeal.
The two nations established diplomatic ties in 1973, but they have been virtually frozen since 2017, when Kim Jong Nam – the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – was murdered at the Kuala Lumpur airport. Malaysia responded to the incident by expelling the North Korean ambassador and effectively shutting down its own embassy in Pyongyang.