SEND TROOPS TO N.KOREA? FOR WHAT! FEARS OF SAFETY OF M’SIAN HOSTAGES IN PYONGYANG GROW AS JONG-NAM MURDER INQUIRY ‘TO TAKE LONGER THAN EXPECTED’

NEW YORK— Malaysia has warned that an investigation into the murder of the North Korean leader’s half-brother “may take longer than what we hope,” as Pyongyang ally China said yesterday that no international action should be considered until it is finished.

Malaysia has said assassins used VX nerve agent, a chemical listed by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction, to kill Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13.

“Due to the complexity and sensitivity of the case, investigation may take longer than what we hope for,” Ahmad Nazri Yusof, Malaysia’s permanent representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), told a meeting of The Hague-based body on Tuesday.

“The government of Malaysia will fully cooperate with the OPCW and other international organisations to bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Yusof, according to his statement posted on the OPCW website.

Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, OPCW states parties can “in cases of particular gravity” bring an issue to the attention of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly for possible action.

When asked if any action should be taken over the murder, China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi said yesterday: “The investigation is still going on, I think we need to see how the process will lead and what the true situation is.”

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors yesterday to discuss North Korea’s launch on Monday of four ballistic missiles.

British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, president of the 15-member council for March, said the accusation of the use of VX nerve agent was raised by some council members.

“It came up, but there was not a particular proposal for the Security Council to take any action at this stage,” he said.

US officials and South Korean intelligence suspect North Korean agents were behind the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, who had been living in Macau under China’s protection. He had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic rule of North Korea.

“We absolutely see no place for chemical weapons in any situation whatsoever, so it’s incredibly disturbing,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told reporters after the Security Council meeting.

“It’s one more factor for us to consider and one more factor that we know is an issue as we’re dealing with how to possibly move forward with North Korea,” she said.

MEANWHILE, according to Malaysiakini:

The worst-case scenario following the Malaysia-North Korea diplomatic fallout is that Pyongyang may order the arrest of Malaysians in the Hermit Kingdom, an academician cautions.

If this were to happen, said University of Tasmania’s James Chin, it would send a signal that Pyongyang is willing to do whatever necessary to retrieve the body of the murdered Kim Jong-nam.

“Right now, they are not doing anything to Malaysians, who are not being allowed to leave the country,” Chin told Malaysiakini.

Chin based his speculation on reports related to terrorist activities that had taken place in several countries, in which North Korea was involved.

“North Korea is unpredictable; it does not follow normal rules, and it would be hard to negotiate with the North Korean regime. It would do crazy things.

“There were reports that the North Korean regime in the past had been involved in terrorism,” he said.

BBC has reported that North Korea has a long history of allegedly sending its agents overseas to carry out kidnappings, assassinations and bombings.

Pyongyang yesterday barred Malaysians there from leaving the republic, after North Korean envoy to Malaysia Kang Chol was expelled.

In response, Najib instructed police to bar all North Koreans from leaving Malaysia.

There are 11 Malaysians in North Korea, including embassy staff and their families.

It was also reported that approximately 1,000 North Korean citizens are in Malaysia, which until recently allowed North Koreans entry without visa.

Chin remained sceptical if the travel ban imposed by Putrajaya would mean anything to the communist dictatorship.

STILL ROOM FOR DIPLOMACY, NO NEED TO SEND IN TROOPS

Meanwhile, analyst Phoon Wing Keong said Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has called North Korea’s move as holding the Malaysians hostage, in order to highlight the seriousness of the problem.

Malaysia is using this strategy to gain the support of the international community, in hope they would pressure Pyongyang to release the Malaysians, Phoon (photo) said.

The term ‘hostage’ would put North Korea in a bad light and suggest it has violated certain international norms by acting recklessly, he said.

Phoon explained that despite Malaysia’s tit-for-tat response to the barring of each other’s nationals, the international community and media do not classify the North Koreans in Malaysia as hostages, as they view Malaysia as only responding to what Pyongyang has done to Malaysians.

“The problem is, if Pyongyang would succumb easily to pressure and reprimand, then it is not the current regime (that we know),” he added.

It is too early to talk about Putrajaya sending people to rescue the 11 Malaysians stuck in North Korea, he added.

“I believe we have yet to come to that stage yet, we lack the condition from the aspect of defence (to launch a rescue mission),” he said.

This is totally different from the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, where 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage by a group of Iranian students who had taken over US Embassy in Tehran, he said.

“Iran and US clashed with each other from the aspect of politics and ideology, particularly after the Iranian Revolution.

“But Malaysia and North Korea have been friendly to each other, we even imposed visa-free entry for North Koreans before.

“We did not have clear sign of clashes against each other, until the murder of Kim Jong-nam,” he said.

“There is still (room) for diplomatic channels for us to resolve (the stalemate), we don’t have to resort to dramatic means by sending our troops there.

“And we lack such (military) strength to do so,” Phoon added.

— Reuters / MKINI

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