Sin Chew Daily
North Korea is used to springing surprises by going against the norm. In order to defend the dignity of the country and to safeguard the safety of Malaysian citizens stranded in North Korea, the government ought to be more rational in handling the situation.
The diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea has since soared. Both countries expelled ambassadors of each other and also banned citizens of each other's countries from leaving. This has entered the second phase of indirect shutdown of embassy. Whether both countries sever diplomatic ties would depend on the next move by both governments. Currently the ball is in North Korea's court.
After North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol was listed as a "persona non grata" and has been expelled within stipulated hours, North Korea banned Malaysian citizens from leaving the country. This is similar to holding the Malaysian embassy staff and family members as hostages, disregarding diplomatic protocol.
Since the murder of Kim Jong-nam, North Korea has been disregarding diplomatic and international protocol, making baseless accusations against Malaysia and has infringed on Malaysia's sovereignty.
To safeguard the integrity of the country with priority consideration given to the safety and rights of Malaysians stranded in North Korea, the government has to resort to reciprocal action of banning North Korean citizens from leaving Malaysia as retaliation.
North Korea's act may be in exchange for bargaining chip such as claiming the body of Kim Jong-nam. Prior to this, Pyongyang made three requests to Malaysia which included claiming the body and releasing the suspects involved. Malaysia would not compromise easily.
North Korea does not operate according to the accepted procedures. The Malaysian government would have to be rational in dealing with them. Prior to this, when Malaysia expelled the North Korean ambassador, it might have overlooked North Korea's style of handling matters.
Whether the episode would be developed into a complete cut of diplomatic ties, it is believed that North Korea would not announce to sever ties with Malaysia before achieving any outcome in its favor. Foreign minister Anifah Aman said Malaysia would not sever ties with Pyongyang as many things need to be taken into account, including protecting the interests of the country, reputation of Malaysia and the outcome of severing ties, which will only be the last resort.
Nevertheless, all Malaysians are with the government to condemn North Korea in defending the dignity of this country. We need to understand that Malaysia has been abiding by international laws and proper procedures when handling diplomatic matters. Diplomatic protocols and practices are used to communicate with other countries. Malaysia's principle is to maintain good ties with all countries.
Both Malaysia and North Korea are signatories to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. We believe the diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea could be resolved based on the regulations and spirit of the convention, without the need of raising this matter with United Nations Security Council.
Based on Pyongyang's style in handling international affairs, having the UN to intervene will only complicate things and the outcome may be unfavorable to us. This adds uncertainties to the situation in Southeast Asia.
With constant changes taking place in East Asia, North Korea has been ignoring the sanctions imposed by the UN. It has continued to be provocative by initiating missile tests. Whether to ease tension in East Asia or to mediate the diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea, China is capable of playing its role as an ally of North Korea. Malaysia, too, has close ties with China and both have mutual interactions. We believe China is willing to help. Whether North Korea buys this requires further observation.