The investigation into the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport has entered a new stage.
Malaysian police have revealed that they believe a second secretary at the embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) -- commonly known as North Korea -- in Malaysia was involved in the incident. North Korea should comply with Malaysia's request and instruct the second secretary to turn himself in to Malaysian authorities.
Police in Malaysia have also issued warrants for four North Korean nationals. Shortly after the assassination, the four men are said to have left Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and returned to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. They must be handed over to Malaysian authorities.
On Feb. 23, 10 days after the assassination took place, North Korean state media reported the incident for the first time. The media, however, did not reveal the identity of the deceased or the fact that he was killed, instead saying that Malaysian authorities had complicated matters by conducting an arbitrary autopsy on a North Korean national with a diplomatic passport who merely died of illness.
North Korea is arguing that Malaysia has ignored diplomatic immunity of the deceased North Korean national, thereby violating the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, by carrying out the autopsy against North Korea's wishes. But that argument is a convenient misinterpretation of the concept of diplomatic immunity on North Korea's part. Even if a real diplomat died as a result of a crime committed outside the country where they were stationed, diplomatic immunity as guaranteed by the convention would not extend to such circumstances. The autopsy by Malaysian authorities was the most obvious and logical course of action.
North Korea is accusing South Korea of spreading the conspiracy theory that Kim Jong Nam was poisoned to death. It says that South Korean President Park Geun-hye and the South Korean intelligence community are attempting to use the incident to draw attention away from the impeachment charges brought against Park. Such reasoning is highly implausible.
North Korea has criticized the investigations conducted by Malaysian police for being full of problems and questions. It has also hinted that it would not accept the autopsy results. North Korea has also proposed a joint investigation with Malaysian authorities. But since the case took place on Malaysian soil, it is only natural for local police to carry out the investigation. It sounds as though North Korea is making the proposal only for the purpose of disrupting the ongoing probe.
If the crime was committed by a North Korean state agency, it would mean that North Korea, as a state, trampled on the rules of law of another country. It's not surprising that Malaysia recalled its ambassador to North Korea from Pyongyang in a show of indignation over the situation.
In the past, North Korea orchestrated a terrorist bombing incident in Myanmar, or what was then Burma, causing a suspension of diplomatic relations with the country.
The relationship between North Korea and Malaysia -- the only major country that North Korean nationals can enter without a visa -- is now at risk of deteriorating. Indonesia, which faces the possibility that one of its citizens was lured into committing a crime by North Korea, is also expressing great resentment.
As an extension of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War, many countries in Southeast Asia are friendly toward North Korea. But the latest incident is bound to further North Korea's international isolation.