Malaysia is scrapping visa-free entry for North Koreans travelling to the country, the state news agency has said, in the latest fallout from a deadly nerve agent attack at Kuala Lumpur airport.
The bizarre killing of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of North Korea’s ruler, has caused a diplomatic spat between Malaysia and North Korea.
The Bernama news agency announced on Thursday that from 6 March travellers from North Korea would require a visa to enter Malaysia, ending an arrangement that typified previously cordial relations between the two countries.
It comes a day after the two women accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam were charged with murder in a Malaysian court.
The women — Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam and Indonesian Siti Aisyah — did not enter pleas because the magistrate court where they appeared has no jurisdiction over a murder case. Lead prosecutor Iskander Ahmad told the court he will ask for the case to be transferred to a higher court and for the women to be tried together.
Each faces a mandatory death sentence if convicted. Both women were wearing bulletproof vests as they were escorted from the court to Kajang Prison.
Malaysia’s attorney general said on Thursday that a North Korean man in custody over the incident on 13 February would be released and deported.
Attorney General Mohamad Apandi Ali said that 45-year-old Ri Jong Chol would be released on Friday. Malaysia has not described his alleged role in the killing. He was arrested on 17 February, four days after Kim was attacked.
In South Korea, activists said they would begin sending millions of leaflets about the attack across the border by balloon later this month.
The leaflets contain details of the murder and pictures including one of a dying Kim Jong-nam slumped in a chair at a clinic in the airport.
The text describes the North’s leader as “a devil who killed his own brother”.
Kim Jong-nam was attacked at the airport as he waited for his flight home to Macau. He died shortly after two women went up behind him and wiped something onto his face.
Both women have reportedly said they thought they were part of a prank TV show playing harmless tricks on unsuspecting people. Aisyah told authorities she was paid the equivalent of $90.