‘Move to send Ram­lan to dis­cuss with North a step in right di­rec­tion’

New Straits Times - - News -

The govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to send For­eign Min­istry sec­re­tary-gen­eral Datuk Ram­lan Ibrahim to talk terms with North Korea to en­sure the safety and re­lease of Malaysians stranded in the reclu­sive state is a step in the right di­rec­tion, an­a­lysts say.

Nanyang Tech­no­log­i­cal Univer­sity’s S. Ra­jarat­nam School of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies ad­junct se­nior fel­low Dr Oh Ei Sun said send­ing a pro­fes­sional diplo­mat such as Ram­lan was “the right move”.

Oh, who is for­mer po­lit­i­cal sec­re­tary to Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak, said dis­cus­sion points could in­clude the free­dom of the Malaysians to leave North Korea and the re­cip­ro­cal lift­ing of the ban against North Kore­ans leav­ing Malaysia.

He said the dis­cus­sion could delve into the course of ac­tion for Kim Jong-nam’s re­mains — whether they should be trans­ferred to North Korean hands or not.

“They could also de­lib­er­ate on the con­clu­sions of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into (Jong-nam’s) death as well as a stop to North Korean di­a­tribes against Malaysia,” he said.

Oh said if di­rect ne­go­ti­a­tions failed, me­di­a­tion could be the next op­tion. This would be typ­i­cally done by a trusted third coun­try, such as Switzer­land, as well as neu­tral in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“A third and neu­tral coun­try pro­vid­ing ‘good of­fice’ could mean that they send a se­nior diplo­mat or politi­cians to me­di­ate or they could pro­vide a lo­ca­tion, such as Geneva,” he added.

In­ter­na­tional af­fairs ex­pert As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Dr Ah­mad Mar­tadha Mo­hamed of Univer­siti Utara Malaysia (UUM) said closed-door dis­cus­sions were the best av­enue to avert con­flict be­tween the two gov­ern­ments.

“Both par­ties have vested in­ter­ests to not pro­long and es­ca­late this con­flict and, thus, a high-level del­e­ga­tion should meet and dis­cuss diplo­matic so­lu­tions to the cri­sis. I am sure our del­e­ga­tion will be wel­comed by the North Korean govern­ment,” he added.

Both gov­ern­ments had been en­tan­gled in a diplo­matic row fol­low­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of Jong­nam, the es­tranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at klia2 last month.

The regime had crit­i­cised Malaysia’s han­dling of the case, lead­ing to the ex­pul­sion of the North’s am­bas­sador to Malaysia. Py­ongyang re­tal­i­ated by ex­pelling the Malaysian am­bas­sador.

Py­ongyang then de­clared that Malaysians in North Korea would not be al­lowed to leave, prompt­ing Kuala Lumpur to bar North Kore­ans from leav­ing Malaysia.

Of the 11 Malaysians known to be in North Korea, two have left the coun­try. The two were in­volved in a United Na­tions food aid pro­gramme.

The other nine are staffers at the Malaysian em­bassy in Py­ongyang and their fam­ily mem­bers.

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