The DPRK embassy in Kuala Lumpur (Source: AFP)
 
Hanoi (VNA) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on June 26 expressed readiness to normalise ties with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which soured following the assassination of a DPRK citizen last year. 

In an interview granted to Kyodo News, Mahathir, who won the general election on May 9, said Malaysia wants to reestablish diplomatic relations with the DPRK.

When asked if his government will reinstate a visa-free travel arrangement with the DPRK, Mahathir said, "yes."

Malaysia and the DPRK once enjoyed a cozy relationship prior to the murder of Kim Chol in broad daylight at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13, 2017.

The US and the Republic of Korea (RoK) have accused the DPRK of ordering the murder. However, DPRK Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol accused Malaysia of colluding with "hostile forces" by taking sides with the RoK to smear the image of the DPRK.

The verbal sparring between Malaysia and the DPRK led to Malaysia cancelling the visa-free arrangement two weeks after the murder and expelling the DPRK ambassador. DPRK workers were also deported, and there is now a freeze on the issuance of work permits for DPRK nationals.

At the height of the row, the DPRK retaliated by preventing Malaysian diplomats in Pyongyang from leaving the country. They were only allowed to return home after Malaysia agreed to repatriate Kim Chol's body to Pyongyang together with several DPRK suspects wanted by police in connection with the murder case.

Though then Malaysian PM Najib Razak did not break off diplomatic ties, Malaysia has virtually shut down its embassy in Pyongyang while the DPRK Embassy in Kuala Lumpur is still without a head of mission.

During the interview, Mahathir said Malaysia has an economic imperative to maintain amicable relations with other countries.

He welcomed the meeting between the DPRK’s leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12, and indicated that Malaysia will reopen its embassy in Pyongyang, but that such a decision would have to wait until a new foreign minister is appointed.

Mahathir has so far named 13 ministers to his Cabinet, including a foreign minister. The swear-in ceremony is scheduled for July 2 after King Muhammad V approves the appointment.-VNA