This article will weigh media reports by Malaysia Home Agencies for the last few weeks on the death of Kim Jong Nam.
On the 20th of March, it has been reported now Malaysian police are hunting for more North Korean suspects over the killing of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the new suspects are in addition to the seven North Koreans already being sought in last month’s poisoning death of Kim Jong-Nam at Kuala Lumpur’s airport.
Between 14 to 15th of March, Malaysian Home Minister, Zahid Hamidi announced that DNA sample has been obtained from Kim Jong-Nam’s son 5 days ago.
However, the most interesting development came a few weeks prior. It is reported that on 7th March police sealed off the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur to ascertain the number of officials inside. The Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Nur Jazlan were quoted to have said that the move is to physically identify all the embassy staff who are here. This is reported in all news both online and offline.
Bilateral Relations between Malaysia and North Korea have taken a dip since Kim’s death. Now the lives of 9 Malaysian Embassy staff largely depends on how far this diplomatic impasse can be broken. And press releases from key agencies plays a very important part in this equation.
Hence can non-sanitised public reports or announcement made by local Agencies mitigate the current dismal relations between Malaysian-North Korea? Or can it make worst?
It is worth noting that, at a heightened level of political insecurity between two countries, statements made by key leaders are crucial and will be closely monitored. What is even more critical is the fact that- public statements can be perceived as a subtle indicator /gesture or intention towards either improving or deteriorating the existing bilateral relations.
There are other factors to be considered if we would further frame the abovementioned question from the Malaysia-North Korea relations context.
Any direct and non-curated announcement will only make Malaysia’s card to be easily read or misread by North Korea. For instance, there are two things North Korea will likely learn or understand when the Home Ministry announced that the DNA sample has been obtained from Kim Jong-Nam’s son
First – Malaysia is certainly in touch with Jong Nam’s son. For the record, North Korea leadership’s views this political exile family as a threat. Public announcement of contact with this family will only sour the already bad diplomatic relations.
Second, it gives incentives for North Korea to speculate that Malaysia could return Jong Nam’s body to his son as opposed directly to North Korea. This provides ample motivation for North Korea officials to be even more suspicious, recalcitrant and demanding for Jong Nam’s body per-say during on-going discussions.
The bottom line is – it is wise to follow a good balance approach. We should not be entirely quiet. Instead, we should be Tactful and effective in handling our public communication, especially from Government machinery.
It is also surmised that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Department are coordinating back-door diplomacy. Hence any hardline statements by Home Agencies or the Police will make an ongoing quiet diplomacy tricky.
In principal, there must be a mutually understood and followed communication policy at the National Security Council level on the issue. However, this policy should have been designed and agreed early on, to avoid what now seems to be an uncoordinated and less than clever projection of message by various home agencies.