Diplomatic solution the only way to resolve Malaysia-Pyongyang row

ARFA YUNUS

KUALA LUMPUR: The current diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea can only be resolved via proper diplomatic channels, said Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) senior lecturer in international politics and Asean relations Dr Muhammad Fuad Othman.

He said both nations must be open to discussion if they want to bring an end to the ongoing dispute.

“At the end of the day, this conflict can only be resolved through discussion. There are many channels we can use to avoid any escalation to the situation.

“If we (Malaysia) fail to get North Korea to hold discussion with us, we can still try to talk with their allies such as China and Russia. A diplomatic solution is the best way to handle things,” he told the New Straits Times today.

Asked if such an incident had ever occurred in Malaysia, Dr Fuad described it as “unprecedented”.

“In recent times, no such thing has ever happened. With other countries previously, yes, but not involving Malaysia.”

Earlier today, North Korean media reports stated that all Malaysians currently in North Korea have been barred from leaving the country.

The move, seen by many as effectively holding the Malaysians hostage, comes amid an increasingly heated diplomatic row over the killing of Kim Jong-Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea Leader Kim Jong-un in Kuala Lumpur.

Dr Fuad added that North Korea’s decision to bar Malaysians from leaving the country would only taint the country’s image, describing the move as a “total disregard of all international law and diplomatic norms”.

“North Korea must explain why they are doing this. This can be considered as a prejudicial act and can lead to negative perception among other countries.

“Even their allies might take extra precautions when working with them in the future.”

Pyongyang this morning said the Malaysians would be barred from leaving until the “the incident that happened in Malaysia is properly solved," according to a news report.

In response, the Home Ministry said North Korean embassy staff in Malaysia have also been barred from leaving the country, with immediate effect.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has lambasted Pyongyang’s move as “abhorrent, and has called for the release of all Malaysians currently held in North Korea.