KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's foreign ministry on Friday (Mar 19) denounced a decision by North Korea to sever diplomatic ties, describing the move as "unfriendly and unconstructive".
In a statement, the ministry said Malaysia would close its embassy in Pyongyang in response and would order all diplomatic staff and their dependants at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur to leave the country within 48 hours.
"Malaysia denounces the decision as unfriendly and unconstructive, disrespecting the spirit of mutual respect and good neighbourly relations among members of the international community," said the statement.
"Malaysia reserves our every right to respond to the decision of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) in order to protect our sovereignty and to safeguard our national interest."
North Korea earlier announced it would sever diplomatic relations with Malaysia after a court in Malaysia ruled that a North Korean man could be extradited to the United States to face money laundering charges, state media KCNA reported on Friday.
North Korea's foreign affairs ministry also warned Washington would "pay a price", in a statement carried by KCNA.
The North Korean statement did not name its citizen, but in early March, Malaysia's top court ruled that a North Korean man, Mun Chol Myong, could be extradited.
Mun had been arrested in 2019 after the United States accused him of laundering funds through front companies and issuing fraudulent documents to support illicit shipments to North Korea. He fought the extradition request, arguing that it was politically motivated.
There was a heavy police presence outside the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Friday as hordes of journalists arrived following the announcement.
Malaysia had been one of North Korea's few allies until Kim Jong Un's half-brother was murdered with a banned nerve agent as he waited to catch a flight from Kuala Lumpur four years ago.
Before the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, Malaysia and North Korea enjoyed particularly warm relations, but afterwards they expelled each other's ambassadors and axed a reciprocal visa-free travel arrangement for visitors.
Malaysia has had diplomatic relations with Pyongyang since 1973. The Malaysian foreign ministry said it "deeply regrets" North Korea's move to sever ties and that it had considered North Korea to be "a close partner" since the establishment of diplomatic relations.
The ministry defended the extradition of Mun, saying it was only carried out after due legal process had been exhausted, and that North Korea had pressured the government to intervene in the case.
Mun's application for the writ of habeas corpus at the High Court of Kuala Lumpur on Dec 29, 2019, and his appeal at the federal court on Oct 8 last year were dismissed, said the statement.
It also said that Mun's rights while in custody in Malaysia were also "guaranteed and fulfilled", and that he had access to his own defence counsel, consular assistance and family visits.