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(LEAD) N. Korean diplomats leave embassy in Malaysia after ties are severed: reports

North Korea 16:08 March 21, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS more info in 3rd para)

SEOUL, March 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korean diplomats left their mission in Malaysia on Sunday, just a few days after Pyongyang said it would cut ties with the Southeast Asian country over its citizen's U.S. extradition, local news media said.

According to news reports by Malaysian media, a bus carrying 33 people, including North Korean diplomats, officials and their families, departed for the airport from the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur at about 11 a.m. (Malaysian time).

The North Korean flag, which was flown on the premises the previous day, was removed overnight from the building, before the bus entered the compound around 9 a.m.

In this AFP photo, a bus leaves the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

Before leaving the mission, the North Korean Embassy's charge d'affaires Kim Yu-song issued a statement criticizing Malaysia for extraditing its citizen to the United States last week.

He said the deportation case is an outcome of the U.S.-led conspiracy against North Korea and has undermined the basis of the bilateral relationship between North Korea and Malaysia.

In this AFP photo, the North Korean Embassy in Malaysia's charge d'affaires Kim Yu-song (C) reads a statement before leaving the mission in Kuala Lumpur on March 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

Last Friday, Pyongyang said it was severing diplomatic relations with Kuala Lumpur after Malaysia decided to extradite a North Korean man accused of money laundering to the United States.

In immediate response, the Malaysian government denounced North Korea's move and ordered all diplomatic staff at the North Korean mission in Kuala Lumpur to leave the country within 48 hours. It also said it would close its embassy in Pyongyang.

In this AFP photo, many journalists and photographers wait in front of the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

North Korea and Malaysia had maintained close ties since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations in 1973, but ties were strained when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, was poisoned to death at a Kuala Lumpur airport in 2017 in an assassination blamed on Pyongyang.

The two countries both expelled the ambassadors from their respective countries, while the Malaysian Embassy in Pyongyang was closed down following the incident.

In 2019, North Korea's No. 2 leader Choe Ryong-hae met with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and discussed ways to normalize relations in Azerbaijan, but little progress was made amid the global outbreak of the new coronavirus.

brk@yna.co.kr
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