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Murder most official

Feb 23,2017
The Inspector General of the Royal Malaysia Police, Khalid Abu Bakar, has singled out a second secretary at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and an employee of Air Koryo, North Korea’s national carrier, as additional suspects in the brutal assassination last week of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The Malaysian police chief put the two North Koreans on the country’s most-wanted list. The alleged involvements in the murder of a diplomat and an employee of a state-owned company points to the North Korean government as being behind the heinous crime despite the embassy’s repeated denials.

Circumstantial evidence suggests Pyongyang’s orchestration of the despicable homicide. It was on Jun. 8, 2014 when Air Koryo’s last passenger plane took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Moreover, any type of North Korean aircraft is still prohibited from taking off or landing at the airport or even passing through Malaysian airspace after UN sanctions. Nevertheless, Pyongyang has stationed an employee of the carrier in Kuala Lumpur. Why on earth?

The Malaysian police chief’s action marks a decisive turning point. It means the Malaysian government is approaching the case on the level of a state crime above the level of a murder simply involving North Korean individuals. If the involvement of a serving diplomat and an employee of a state-owned company are proven true, that will likely deal a critical blow to the North’s diplomacy around the globe.

North Korea has been pressured from the UN Security Council to reduce the number of officials at its missions overseas after its diplomats turned out to have been engaged in illicit activities for profit — including clandestine arms trading and drug trafficking — by taking advantage of diplomatic privileges such as immunity from arrest. If Pyongyang really carried out the poisoning by mobilizing a diplomat assigned to Malaysia, North Korea will be ostracized by the international community.

That will only deepen the North’s diplomatic and economic isolation, not to mention international society’s increasing pressure on China. Beijing will most likely have to confront the world’s mounting demands that it immediately stop its oil exports to the North, a step way beyond suspending coal imports from the North. The Malaysian people will also feel a sense of disappointment and betrayal after decades of amicable relations.

Malaysia has called on North Korea to cooperate in its investigation of the case by bringing four North Koreans back to Kuala Lumpur from Pyongyang. That’s a natural step to dig out the whole truth. If the North is really as innocent as its Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol claims, it must comply with the request no matter what. Its credibility is on the line.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 23, Page 30