Minister: Malaysia-N. Korea trade unaffected by row over Jong-nam death

Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said that there was 'hardly any' investment involving Malaysia and North Korea. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — The current diplomatic tension over the death of Kim Jong-nam will not affect bilateral trade with North Korea, Malaysia’s international trade and industries minister said today.

Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed added that there was “hardly any” investment involving both countries.

“The trade is small, the investment hardly any,” he told a media conference after presenting the  Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA)’s annual performance report here.

He also said that it was up to the private sector to assess the risks of doing business with North Korea.

“We are not going to say there is an embargo on trade with North Korea. It is up to the private sector to assess the risks,” he added.

According to MIDA, Malaysia’s trade with North Korea was only RM18 million in 2016, largely due to palm oil export.

In 2015, the trade value was RM20 million.

North Korea has repeatedly accused Malaysia of being unfair in its investigation in the death of Jong-Nam who was the older half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

This has strained diplomatic ties between both countries, with Malaysia recalling its ambassador to Pyongyang and cancelling its visa-free entry to North Korean visitors starting March 6.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also warned the reclusive state today against treating Malaysia like the other nations it has “bullied”.

Jong-Nam died on February 13 shortly after his face was wiped with by a deadly nerve toxin called VX that has been known to be used as a bioweapon.

Two women, an Indonesian and a Vietnamese, were charged yesterday with his murder.

But police believe the masterminds to be North Koreans and are seeking seven, including one said to be a senior official at the embassy here.

One North Korean man, Ri Jong-chol, 47, currently under local police custody, will be deported to his home country tomorrow.