Experts weigh in on the worth of N. Korea’s ‘friendship’
Bilateral relations between Malaysia and North Korea, already tense in the aftermath of the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, will be further strained following Malaysia’s declaration of North Korean ambassador Kang Chol persona non grata.
However, international relations experts said this would be “a good time” to review relations with the reclusive country, as it would “hurt them more than us”.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah Associate Professor in politics and international relations Dr Lai Yew Meng said the country could witness the temporary freezing of diplomatic ties as Malaysia seeks to review its bilateral ties with North Korea.
“This could happen as Pyongyang is not expected to back down or adopt a more conciliatory position in dealing with the diplomatic debacle,” he told the
New Straits Times yesterday.
Lai said the freezing of bilateral ties would be detrimental to North Korea as “the so-called hermit kingdom may lose another important friendly state”.
He said ties between the countries were not considered significant, with bilateral trade being negligible at best, while other areas of cooperation are underdeveloped to begin with.
“Conversely, the possible freezing of bilateral ties would per- haps be a blessing in disguise for Malaysia since it would give us the opportunity to disassociate ourselves with a state widely perceived by the international community as a ‘nonstatus quo state’ that has a tendency to be less than compliant concerning international rules and norms.”
Political analyst and Universiti Utara Malaysia senior lecturer in international politics and Asean relations Dr Muhammad Fuad Othman said recent events could serve as a good wake-up call.
“This would be a good time for Malaysia to rethink the value of diplomatic relations with North Korea and whether it is worth having a friend who is so hostile.”
Malaysia, Fuad said, could demote the level of diplomatic ties, such as by having a small diplomatic office rather than a full-fledged embassy.
Fuad’s colleague, Md Shukri Shuib, a senior lecturer in political and international studies, said it would be better for Malaysia to focus on enhancing ties with countries such as Japan, South Korea and China.
He said Malaysia’s relationship with North Korea had not benefited the country significantly.
“Malaysia should just freeze diplomatic ties with North Korea. Shut down our embassy in Pyongyang. There is no positive effect (of having ties with North Korea). North Korea has been rude. Why do we need to entertain them?”
Md Shukri Shuib