Positive North-South Korea talks could see Malaysia reopening embassy in Pyongyang

The Grand Monument, Pyongyang

Malaysia’s decision to reopen its embassy in Pyongyang will very much depend on the outcome of peace talks between North and South Korea.

Malaysian diplomats were summoned home following a diplomatic row stemming from the high-profile assassination of Kim Jong-nam at the KL International Airport 2 (klia2) in 2017. Jong-nam was the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had in June last year expressed Malaysia’s willingness to restart operations in the communist state. However, there has not been any progress as local staff continue to clock in at the embassy located in Taedonggang District.

Dr Mahathir, had after a bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in March, hoped for an improved relationship between the two Koreas and that the US and North Korea would reach agreement on disarmament.

Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah admitted external factors resulting in a peaceful Korean peninsula would encourage Putrajaya to send Malaysian diplomats back to Pyongyang.

“We are following closely the negotiations between both nations for a sustainable peaceful solution for the peninsula. The plans will be then laid out based on the outcome of those talks,” Saifuddin said.

He added Malaysian will not lose out in the gathering of intelligence and in maintaining the non-operational facility there.

“There are many other ways of getting intelligence and we shouldn’t put cost (of maintaining the embassy) as our main factor.”

Saifuddin’s comments to Twentytwo13 come as South Korean president Moon Jae-in expressed eagerness to restart talks with his communist neighbour. Both Koreas have not held formal negotiations since the Hanoi summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un which collapsed in February.

The second summit failed as North Korea would not budge from US demands for de-nuclearisation as the secluded Asian nation wanted sanctions relief.

The first summit between Trump and Jong-un was held with much pomp and fare in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Yet, there have been no signs of promising progress.

North Korea’s state news agency KCNA, in recording the historic meet’s first anniversary tomorrow, called for the US to withdraw “its hostile policy”, adding: “The arrogant and unilateral US policy will never work on the DPRK (North Korea), which values sovereignty.”

The Wall Street Journal, quoting a source, reported on Monday that “there was a nexus” between Jong-nam and CIA and that Jong-nam was in Malaysia to meet his CIA contact, although that may not have been his only reason for being in the country.

Jong-nam was poisoned with banned chemical weapon VX. Closed-circuit camera footage showed two women distracting him before covering his face.

Two women – Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong – were charged with poisoning Jong-nam but were surprisingly released by Malaysian authorities in March and May respectively and were immediately flown back their home nations.