North Korea has banned Malaysians staying in its territory from leaving the country. Pyongyang has explained that the measure will be in place until the safety of North Koreans staying in Malaysia is guaranteed.
The measure is aimed apparently at ensuring that an Air Koryo employee and a second-class secretary at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, wanted by Malaysian police over the killing of Kim Jong Nam, leave the country without being interrogated.
The two are believed to be staying at the embassy. As such, North Korea is apparently trying to break the deadlock in the situation in which the two have been stranded because of strict surveillance by local police.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak bitterly condemned North Korea for "effectively holding our citizens hostage," and banned North Korean nationals staying in Malaysia from leaving the country in retaliation.
It is easy to imagine how worried people stranded in a foreign land can become. The act constitutes a violation of the International Bill of Human Rights for countries to disallow people from leaving their territories against the will of the individuals. Those suspected of having committed crimes are exempted from the pact. No country can legally ban people of certain nationalities from leaving its territory. North Korea and Malaysia should swiftly lift their bans.
Among Malaysians whom North Korea has banned from leaving its country is at least one United Nations employee. One cannot help but wonder whether Pyongyang is aware that its act could be interpreted as a challenge to the entire international community.
Malaysia is demanding that four suspects who returned to North Korea after the incident be extradited. North Korea has not only refused to comply but only stepped up its criticism of Malaysia saying the incident was a plot by South Korea. Bilateral relations between the two countries, which had been regarded as friendly, are rapidly worsening, and the two countries have expelled each other's ambassadors.
Fierce protests by North Korea, which has denied involvement in the assassination of the half-brother of its leader Kim Jong Un, have rather strengthen allegations that the incident was a state crime.
Moreover, North Korea's protests suggest Pyongyang believes that if it strongly pressures Malaysia, it could improve the situation.
Such thinking is just North Korea's selfish illusion, but such a tendency is common among North Korea's recent moves. It would be extremely dangerous if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has limited experience running the country, maintains a strong attitude and bureaucrats are competing in their loyalty to the dictator as well as in their tough stances.
North Korean has announced that its launches of ballistic missiles on March 6 were part of troop exercises that are carried out on the assumption of an attack on U.S. forces in Japan in case of a contingency. Pyongyang apparently attempted to demonstrate its missile launch ability to Washington, but it will only prompt the government of U.S. President Donald Trump to toughen its stance toward the secluded state.
When Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il, was in power, North Korea took actions that were apparently carefully premeditated, in sharp contrast to the latest moves suggesting that the current regime lacks composure.
South Korea's foreign minister has proposed that North Korea's membership in the United Nations should be suspended and that the latest incident be referred to the International Criminal Court. These proposals should be seriously studied considering North Korea's recent lawless state.