Malaysia's foreign ministry denounced North Korea's move as unwarranted and disruptive to regional peace, adding that the extradition of North Korean man Mun Chol Myong had been carried out according to law.

North Korean embassy counsellor Kim Yu Song (left) walks with Jagjit Singh (right), lawyer to Mun Chol Myong, the North Korean man facing extradition from Malaysia to the US on money-laundering, at the Session Court in Kuala Lumpur on December 13, 2019.
North Korean embassy counsellor Kim Yu Song (left) walks with Jagjit Singh (right), lawyer to Mun Chol Myong, the North Korean man facing extradition from Malaysia to the US on money-laundering, at the Session Court in Kuala Lumpur on December 13, 2019. (AFP)

North Korea has said it would sever diplomatic relations with Malaysia after a court there ruled that a North Korean man could be extradited to the United States to face money laundering charges.

North Korea's foreign affairs ministry also warned Washington would "pay a price," in a statement carried by KCNA.

On March 9, Malaysia's top court ruled that a North Korean man, Mun Chol Myong, could be extradited to the United States to face money laundering charges, according to media reports.

In response to North Korea's move, Malaysia's foreign ministry said the country would close its embassy in Pyongyang and order all diplomatic staff at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur to leave the country within 48 hours.

"Malaysia denounces (North Korea's) decision as unfriendly and unconstructive, disrespecting the spirit of mutual respect and good neighbourly relations among members of the international community," the ministry said in a statement.

READ MORE: Malaysia arrests North Korean man over Kim Jong-nam's death

Money laundering charges

Mun had been arrested in 2019 after the United States accused him of laundering funds through front companies and issuing fraudulent documents to support illicit shipments to North Korea. He fought the extradition request, arguing that it was politically motivated.

In court he denied FBI claims that he led a criminal group that violated sanctions by supplying prohibited items to North Korea and laundered funds through front companies.

He faces four charges of money laundering and two of conspiracy to launder money. The allegations relate mainly to his work in Singapore, according to his lawyers.

It is unclear what Mun is accused of supplying, but there have been cases of businesses in Singapore sending luxury items, such as liquor and watches, to North Korea.

The export to North Korea of some luxury goods has been ban ned as part of sweeping sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the United Nations and other countries – including the United States – over its weapons programmes.

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"Nefarious act"

The ministry called the extradition a "nefarious act and unpardonably heavy crime" by Malaysian authorities, who had "offered our citizen as a sacrifice of the US hostile move in defiance of the acknowledged international laws."

The statement described the individual as someone engaged in "legitimate external trade activities in Singapore," insisting that it was a "fabrication... to argue that he was involved in 'illegal money laundering.'"

Malaysia's actions had destroyed "the entire foundation of the bilateral relations based on the respect for sovereignty," it said.

Malaysia's once-close ties with North Korea were severely downgraded after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged brother, Kim Jong Nam, was killed at a Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017 when two women smeared his face with VX nerve agent, which the United Nations lists as a weapon of mass destruction.

"We warn in advance that the US – the backstage manipulator and main culprit of this incident – that it will also be made to pay a due price," KCNA reported.

On Thursday US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the administration of President Joe Biden would complete a review of its North Korea policy in the next few weeks in close consultation with allies.

READ MORE: Nine Malaysians still stranded in North Korea

Source: TRTWorld and agencies