Ex­perts weigh in on the worth of N. Korea’s ‘friend­ship’

New Straits Times - - News -

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

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