COMMENT The diplomatic dispute is over one North Korean diplomatic passport holder’s dead body versus nine Malaysian diplomatic officials and family members who are alive and well in North Korea.
In any crisis, the question of resolving a problem should not be complicated. Ideally, a win-win situation will be the solution especially when diplomatic ties have taken a serious dip between both countries.
We are talking about the North Korean demand - returning the dead body (Kim Jong-nam) and nine diplomats and family members to return to Malaysia.
We are already beginning to see the light at the end of tunnel. According to the New Straits Times’s front page yesterday, “Kim Jong-nam’s family members have 14 days - as stipulated in a government circular - to claim his body. Kim Jong-un’s half-brother and the leader of North Korea is among rightful claimants. But if no one comes forward the embassy can take the body.”
I am confident the Malaysian government will act wisely in returning the diplomat’s dead body in exchange for nine Malaysians stranded in North Korea. It is not fair to the next of kin in Malaysia to let the nine be in North Korea any more. This is a question of using simple logic - one vs nine.
It is now evidently clear that Malaysian leaders have taken a conciliatory stand now to engage in formal discussions.
On Saturday, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman. after meeting family members of the stranded Malaysians, told reporters: “Eventually, we have to hand over Kim Jong-nam’s remains to someone, whether from the government or family members.”
Wisma Putra is aware that ‘preventive’ diplomacy refers to diplomatic action taken to prevent disputes, instead of merely reactive diplomacy.
Since the death of Kim Jong-nam, there has been mud-slinging by North Korean and Malaysian leaders. North Korea demanded that since the deceased was a diplomatic passport holder, the body, according to them, should be returned to the North Korean government.
Its leader Kim Jong-un has a willingness to test the boundaries of international law through unwarranted missile tests which have made the nation suffer in poverty because of its isolationist policies.
Malaysia, from its tough position in the beginning, changed to an amiable position when North Korea did not allow nine Malaysian diplomats and family members to return.
Was there anyone one in the Foreign Ministry advising our politicians to tone down the rhetoric? Wrong decisions, pre-judgments and undiplomatic moves worsened the diplomatic ties between both countries. A tit-for-tat attitude will not help in a crisis situation.
Even a newspaper ran a front page headline, ‘Tit-for-tat’...