Malaysia, North Korea Escalate Diplomatic Battle
Malaysia is barring all North Koreans, including diplomats and embassy staff, from leaving the country, while North Korea is banning all Malaysians from leaving its territory, as the two nations continue a diplomatic battle kicked off by last month's killing of the half-brother of North Korea's leader. The decisions Tuesday followed earlier moves to expel each other's ambassadors.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said North Korea is "effectively holding our citizens hostage" and that he hopes the decision is reversed immediately in order to prevent further escalation.
The North Korean move was announced by state television, saying its ban would be in place until the safety of its citizens in Malaysia is guaranteed.
Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of Kim Jon Un, was attacked February 13 at an airport in Kuala Lumpur with what Malaysian investigators say was VX nerve agent. He died 20 minutes later.
Malaysian authorities have charged a Vietnamese woman and an Indonesian woman with murder, saying they were the ones who rubbed the substance on Kim's face. Police are still seeking several other suspects they believe are connected to the killing, including several North Koreans. One North Korean suspect was detained for several weeks before being deported.
North Korea has not confirmed the dead man is Kim Jong Nam, and has rejected the Malaysian investigation in the case and any suggestions that it was behind the killing.
Kim Jong Nam was the older estranged brother of Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Nam was once considered the heir apparent to lead North Korea, but he fell out of favor with their father, the late dictator Kim Jong Il, after a failed 2001 attempt to enter Japan on a forged passport to visit Disneyland. Since then, Kim Jong Nam had lived in virtual exile, primarily in the Chinese territory of Macau.
THAAD Deployment Begins Amid Increasing Tensions Between China and South Korea
The U.S. deployed the first elements of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to South Korea Tuesday, one day after North Korea launched at least four ballistic missiles, three of which landed within 350 km of the Japanese mainland.
Last year, Washington and Seoul agreed to expedite the U.S. missile shield deployment in the face of North Korea’s accelerated testing and development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement.
Harris said the THAAD elements were deployed to honor alliance commitments to South Korea and to help defend U.S. troops in the region, U.S. allies and the American homeland. The THAAD system could be operational as early as April, according the South Korean military.
Like the Patriot missile system, THAAD uses missiles to shoot down incoming missiles. THAAD is a battery of 48 missiles on mobile erector launchers that uses powerful radar and infrared technology to intercept missiles within a range of 200 km, while they are in their descent phase.
China’s strong opposition to THAAD has sparked concerns in South Korea.
Beijing objects to the advanced U.S. weapons system as an unnecessary and provocative military escalation, and says the powerful radar the system uses to track incoming missiles also poses a potential threat to China.