North Korea on Friday said it was cutting diplomatic ties with Malaysia to protest a court ruling that allowed a North Korean to be extradited to the United States to face money laundering charges.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called the charges an “absurd fabrication and sheer plot” orchestrated by the U.S., “the principal enemy of our state” where the man was eventually extradited.
The ministry said that it was announcing “total severance of the diplomatic relations with Malaysia, which committed super-large hostile act against (North Korea) in subservience to the U.S. pressure.”
It also said the United States will “pay a due price.”
Earlier this month, Malaysia’s top court rejected an assertion by North Korean Mun Chol Myong that the U.S. charge was politically motivated, ruling that he could be extradited.
Mun had lived in Malaysia for a decade and was arrested in May 2019 after U.S. authorities requested his extradition. Malaysia’s government approved the request, but Mun challenged the bid.
In his affidavit, Mun denied accusations by the U.S. that he was involved in supplying prohibited luxury goods from Singapore to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions while working in the city-state before moving to Malaysia in 2008.
He denied that he had laundered funds through front companies and that he issued fraudulent documents to support illicit shipments to his country. He said in his affidavit that he was the victim of a “politically motivated” extradition request aimed at pressuring North Korea over its missile program.
North Korea and Malaysia established diplomatic ties in 1973, but have suffered major setbacks since the 2017 slaying of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Two women — one Indonesian and the other Vietnamese — were charged with colluding with four North Koreans to murder Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with VX nerve agent. The four North Koreans fled Malaysia the day Kim died.
Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea of involvement in Kim’s death, but prosecutors made it clear throughout the trial they suspected a North Korean connection. North Korea has denied any involvement. The two women, who have said they thought they were taking part in a harmless prank for a TV show, were later released.
Malaysia scrapped visa-free entry for North Koreans and expelled North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol after he rejected Malaysia’s investigation and insisted the victim was an ordinary citizen who died of a heart attack.
North Korea responded by banning Malaysians from leaving, entrapping three diplomats and six of their family members. The nine Malaysians were only allowed to fly back after Malaysia released Kim’s body to North Korea and allowed the North Koreans to leave, including an embassy official and a North Korean Air Koryo employee wanted by police for questioning over Kim’s death.
The reported extradition comes amid deadlocked nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. Diplomatic efforts led by the U.S. to persuade North Korea to abandon its advancing nuclear weapons program have stalled for more than two years because of disputes over U.S.-led sanctions on North Korea.
Reporting by Hyung-Jin Kim for the Associated Press in Seoul, South Korea.