Visa requirement for N. Koreans the right move, say analysts

Police stand guard outside a partially closed KLIA2 airport terminal in Sepang, Malaysia February 26, 2017
PHOTO: Reuters

Imposing a visa requirement on North Koreans is the right move to show Pyongyang that Malaysia is serious about its security and sovereignty.

The move also sends a signal to the isolated nation that Malaysia was not lenient towards it, said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Institute of Malaysian and Inter­national Studies senior fellow and deputy director Assoc Prof Dr Sufian Jusoh.

"We have the ability to vet who flies in. We are looking for genuine, bona fide visitors, not those who come in and take advantage of our kindness," said Dr Sufian, adding that looking at the turn of events these past few weeks, the move was expected.

Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia senior analyst Shahriman Lockman called ending the visa-free arrangement a "no brainer".

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"The visa exemption has exposed us to the risks demonstrated by Kim Jong-nam's assassination.

"Until July last year, Singapore also had a visa-free arrangement with North Korea but this was cancelled because Singapore recognised that it could not enforce international sanctions with relaxed immigration requirements."

Asked if Malaysia appeared to be conceding to North Korea by allowing its national Ri Jong-chol - a suspect in Jong-nam's killing - to be deported, Shahriman said Malaysia still held all the cards in this situation.

"What pressure can it bring to bear? North Korea's main security concerns are the United States, South Korea, Japan and increasingly China.

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"It just wants to be rid of this problem it has in Malaysia so it can concentrate on those issues," said Shahriman.

Other analysts agreed that Malaysia also did the right thing by releasing and deporting Ri if there was no case against him.

"It shows we respect the rule of law," said Universiti Utara Malaysia national security academician Prof Dr Kamarulnizam Abdullah.

On the arrival of a high-level dele­gation from North Korea, analysts believe that Pyongyang could be switching gears to ensure that Malaysia remains on its side.

"I think North Korea realised that its actions over the past weeks have not brought it any advantage," said Dr Sufian.