By TAN POH KHENG
Sin Chew Daily
A wrong partner can ruin one's life. The same goes for our diplomacy.
There are 194 countries and 31 territories in this world. Befriending democratic and liberal nations will benefit one another, and augur well for the country's development. On the contrary, if we maintain a close relationship with a rogue state that goes against all the norms and respects no one, we will only invite troubles for ourselves.
Internally North Korea is an autocratic regime that oppresses its own subjects. Externally it intimidates its neighbors with frequent missile tests. 144 nations on this planet have made every attempt to evade it, but Malaysia chose to cement a cordial friendship that has lasted over four decades now.
If not for Kim Jong-nam's assassination, not many in this world are aware that we have been such a wonderful ally of Pyongyang.
Kim's assassination has soured the relations, and friends are now turned foes.
The two countries not only have expelled each other's ambassadors, North Korea has taken a step further by barring Malaysian nationals from leaving the country, effectively taking them hostages.
To ensure the safety of Malaysian citizens there, we have retaliated by barring North Koreans from exiting Malaysia.
Against such a backdrop, the national football squad will have to abort its plan of traveling to Pyongyang for the Asian Cup qualifier on March 28.
Pyongyang only has itself to blame for ruining the four-decade friendship overnight as diplomatic row intensifies.
Earlier, North Korean ambassador Kang Chol violated diplomatic protocol by issuing strongly worded statements against the Malaysian police's professionalism, accusing us of colluding with its archrival South Korea.
Kang insisted that the man killed at klia2 was just an ordinary North Korean citizen, not the half brother of his country's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
The question is: will Pyongyang put the diplomatic relations with Kuala Lumpur at risk just because of an ordinary citizen?
The recalcitrant stand of North Korean diplomats and their crude handling of this matter have been in total disregard for international laws and diplomatic conventions, showing unreservedly the regime's extremist and high-handed attitude.
The North Korean operatives' decision to carry out the assassination here is like a stab at the back of the Malaysian government, killing also the 40-year friendship both countries have worked so hard to establish.
Should such a relationship be extended from here?
We do not maintain a significant trade volume with North Korea, and a break of diplomatic ties will therefore not cause us too much pain in the first place. In its stead, having shed the burden, we will be in a better position to hit out at Pyongyang at UN conventions over its missile launches and nuclear weapon researches, or to reinforce our diplomatic and trade ties with South Korea and Japan.
But to Pyongyang, Malaysia is one of the very few friendly nations, an important third-party platform for its interactions and negotiations with other nations. One additional enemy will only make the country more isolated in the international community.
We have been dancing with the wolves for so long. It's now time to decisively sever the ties with Pyongyang.