PETALING JAYA – The United States has praised Malaysia for its handling of the Kim Jong-nam murder, calling North Korea’s actions “reprehensible.”
The US State Department’s East Asian and Pacific Affairs assistant secretary Daniel Russel said Malaysian police had carried out a professional and impressive investigation in the murder based on facts.
“I want to express our respect and admiration for the professionalism of the Malaysian law enforcement authorities who conducted an impressive investigation and worked from the facts in a quick, professional, and sophisticated manner,” Russel told journalists in a conference call from Washington on Wednesday.
The senior US diplomat had strong criticism for the heavy-handed actions taken by Pyongyang, including its decision to ban Malaysians from leaving the country.
He also openly blamed North Korea for the assassination of Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of leader Kim Jong-un, who was killed with a dose of the deadly VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb 13.
“The hijacking of the territory of a country by a foreign power for the purpose of murder, for the purpose of political assassination, is reprehensible.
“And my sympathies go to Malaysia on that account,” he said.
Russel said Wisma Putra was acting within its rights to declare North Korean ambassador Kang Chol as persona non grata and to expel him in the wake of an increasingly heated row between both countries, which had enjoyed good diplomatic relations for years.
“The current diplomatic tension between Malaysia and DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is regrettable but I fully understand the actions taken by the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister of Malaysia to exercise their right under the Vienna Convention,” he added.
Russel was speaking to South-East Asian journalists in one of his final press briefings before leaving his post in the US State Department at the end of the week.
He will serve as senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI), a think-and-do tank that tackles major policy challenges confronting the Asia Pacific region.