, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Mar 2 – Kuala Lumpur has cancelled a visa-free travel deal with Pyongyang as a diplomatic spat deepens over the assassination of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, national news agency Bernama reported Thursday.
The government implemented the change on the grounds of national security, the Malaysian news agency quoted the country’s deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying.
The cancellation will take effect on March 6, after which North Koreans entering Malaysia will be required to obtain a visa, the report added.
Before the murder of Kim Jong-Nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13, the two countries enjoyed relatively warm ties, with some bilateral trade and citizens of both nations entitled to travel to the other under a unique reciprocal visa-free deal.
The cancellation comes after members of the powerful ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation, held a protest outside the North Korean embassy last week and demanded Malaysia end the free visa ruling.
Two female suspects in the attack, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Vietnam, were charged with murder on Wednesday.
Malaysia has arrested one North Korean and named several others as suspects.
Seoul says the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un ordered the killing of Kim Jong-Nam, who died after his face was rubbed with a powerful nerve agent, and engaged two outsiders to carry it out.
The spectacular killing sparked an international probe and lurid stories of Pyongyang’s Cold War-style tradecraft.
North Korea, which has not acknowledged the dead man’s identity, has vehemently protested the investigation, saying Malaysia is in cahoots with its enemies.
Malaysia had already recalled its envoy to Pyongyang and also summoned the North Korean ambassador to Kuala Lumpur.