‘It’s no great loss to us’

New Straits Times - - News -

KUALA LUMPUR: A cold re­la­tion­ship is in the off­ing be­tween Malaysia and North Korea fol­low­ing the abol­ish­ment of the visafree pol­icy for North Kore­ans trav­el­ling here ef­fec­tive Mon­day.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Home Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Dr Ah­mad Zahid Hamidi yes­ter­day an­nounced this, cit­ing se­cu­rity.

Aca­demi­cian Pro­fes­sor Dr Su­fian Ju­soh said the can­cel­la­tion gave North Kore­ans lesser free­dom to travel, and would af­fect their trade in­dus­try, where Malaysia had played a role all these years.

Su­fian said the undiplo­matic state­ment by the North Korean am­bas­sador to Malaysia Kang­chol sparked this when he lashed out at the way the au­thor­i­ties han­dled the as­sas­si­na­tion of Kim Jong-nam on Feb 13 at klia2.

“It is go­ing to be a cold re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries for a long, long time,” said the se­nior fel­low and deputy di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Malaysian and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies As­so­ci­a­tion.

Su­fian said the can­cel­la­tion would bring fur­ther dis­re­pute to North Korea in the re­gion, as Sin­ga­pore had made a sim­i­lar move last year in protest over a nu­clear test Py­ongyang launched.

“With the pol­icy can­cel­la­tion, North Kore­ans can an­tic­i­pate, among oth­ers, tighter screen­ing at air­ports and at least a 15 per cent drop in trade. Not many coun­tries are will­ing to trade with them, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the sanc­tions im­posed by the UN.”

An­other aca­demic, Datuk Steven Wong, said the move was an apt first re­sponse and it was not an ex­ag­ger­ated mea­sure.

“Malaysia’s for­eign pol­icy of friendly re­la­tions is based on the as­sump­tion of re­spon­si­ble na­tion states.

“When this as­sump­tion is vi­o­lated, an ex­is­ten­tial se­cu­rity threat is posed, so it is right that firm ac­tion is taken,” he said.

The post-mur­der re­ac­tions were not those of a na­tion seek­ing cor­dial and co­op­er­a­tive ties with a sov­er­eign coun­try, said Wong, who is deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive of the In­sti­tute of Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

“While I do not be­lieve that ei­ther side would ben­e­fit from cut­ting off diplo­matic ties, I see no ba­sis for pro­ceed­ing.”

In­ter­na­tional re­la­tions scholar Dr Oh Ei Sun said the can­cel­la­tion was long over­due.

“This is one of the world’s most sanc­tioned na­tions, and their past in­ter­na­tional be­hav­iours are not spot­less.

“It is not as if not hav­ing of­fi­cial re­la­tions with them will be a great diplo­matic or eco­nomic loss to us,” said Oh, a se­nior fel­low at the S. Ra­jarat­nam School of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies in Sin­ga­pore.

“The same could not be said for North Korea, which is os­tracised by the main­stream of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.”

Py­ongyang and Kuala Lumpur have en­joyed rel­a­tively warm eco­nomic ties, with some bi­lat­eral trade and cit­i­zens from both coun­tries en­ti­tled to travel to the other un­der a unique re­cip­ro­cal visa-free deal.

The North Korean em­bassy was opened in Kuala Lumpur in 2003, along with the Malaysian em­bassy in Py­ongyang there.

And, in 2009, Malaysia be­came the first coun­try whose cit­i­zens were able to travel to North Korea with­out a visa.

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