NORTH Korean ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol remains defiant in his departure, firing a final salvo at the Malaysian government. Meanwhile, North Korea has retaliated by giving the Malaysian ambassador 48 hours to leave.
EVEN as Malaysia was packing off North Korean ambassador Kang Chol yesterday, the reclusive East Asian country replied in a tit-for-tat fashion.
North Korean state-owned news agency KCNA announced that Pyongyang had given the Malaysian ambassador to North Korea 48 hours to leave the country, the same amount of time that
had been given to Kang (See accompanying story).
Kang left on board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH360 to Beijing, which took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.33pm. From China, he is expected to fly to Pyongyang.
Before leaving, however, the defiant and unapologetic Kang fired off a final salvo in a fashion now familiar to journalists who have been covering the aftermath of the Feb 13 assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the outcast halfbrother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Kang slammed his treatment by Malaysia, saying that the government’s decision to declare him persona non grata and expel him from the country would “do great harm” to relations between the two countries.
“I’m leaving the country today as the Malaysian government has declared me persona non grata for what I said during a press conference on Feb 17.
“I express grave concern about the extreme measures taken by the Malaysian government, (which will inflict) grave harm on our bilateral relations, which has a history of 40 years,” he told reporters at KLIA.
Kang said the statement he had made previously was an expression of a “righteous stand” in his capacity as ambassador on the “pre-targeted investigation” by Malaysian police.
“Police conducted a postmortem examination without the consent and attendance of North Korean embassy (officers), then later arrested a citizen (of North Korea) without any clear evidence showing his involvement in the incident,” he said.
Kang left Malaysia with his wife and granddaughter. He had arrived at KLIA at 4.30pm under police escort.
It was believed that his wife and granddaughter had arrived earlier to avoid media attention.
Though rumours had surfaced that he would catch Flight MH360, pressmen took no chances, with some gathering in KLIA from as early as 6am.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said yesterday Kang was expelled “primarily for his insulting remarks against Malaysia and its due process”.
“The remarks, made in a series of statements — both written and oral — to the media and, therefore, to the public at large, was aimed at calling into question the country’s criminal procedures and due diligence in the conduct of a criminal investigation.
“The ambassador’s remarks were unbecoming of a foreign envoy. Diplomatic statecraft requires the sensitive handling of the lines of communication between states.
“In the case of the (North Korean) ambassador, his derogatory remarks and baseless allegations in the days leading up to his expulsion made it impossible for the Malaysian government to continue to work with him as his nation’s representative.
“In essence, once he had lost his credibility as an envoy and the confidence of his host nation, his presence was no longer wanted.”
Wisma Putra had, on Saturday, declared Kang persona non grata. He was given 48 hours to leave the country. The decision was made following deliberations at the cabinet level over his refusal to apologise for disparaging remarks against Malaysia.
Among the things Kang had said were that Malaysia was colluding with “hostile” nations against North Korea.
He was believed to be alluding to South Korea and the United States.
Kang had also called into question police investigations into Jong-nam’s death, refused to accept the results of a post-mortem examination conducted on the remains and demanded the release of a North Korean citizen arrested in connection with the case but later released and deported.
A senior Foreign Ministry official yesterday said although Kang was declared persona non grata, he was still accorded full diplomatic status, including immunity.
“We will be monitoring him until he arrives safely in Pyongyang. Even though being declared persona non grata is a serious ‘offence’ for a diplomat, we still accord him full privileges as an ambassador as stipulated in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.
“He didn’t have to go through the full immigration check-out process. He was free to use the diplomatic lane (at KLIA),” said the official. Page 1 pic: North Korean ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol being escorted by police at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang yesterday.
North Korean ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol (right) leaving the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur yesterday after being declared persona non grata.