BEIJING, March 7 (Xinhua) -- The foreign ministry of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced Monday that Malaysia's ambassador is labeled as a persona non grata, demanding the diplomat leave the country within 48 hours from 10:00 a.m. local time (0130 GMT) on Sunday.
The foreign ministry announced without elaboration the decision in a brief statement carried by the official news agency KCNA.
The decision came after Malaysia declared the ambassador of the DPRK to the country Kang Chol as a "persona non grata" on Saturday night and asked him to leave Malaysia within 48 hours, amid a row over investigation into the death of a DPRK male.
Malaysia said that Kang failed to show up at a meeting after he was summoned by Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday, and that the DPRK side also failed to make an apology for the accusations Kang has leveled against Malaysia, and there is no sign of a forthcoming one.
Relations between the two countries have been strained over the probe into the Feb. 13 killing of a DPRK man, who carried a diplomatic passport under the name of "Kim Chol."
The man was attacked at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2. After seeking help from the airport staff, he died en route to hospital.
After the body was examined, the Malaysian side said the DPRK man died a painful death minutes after being swabbed with a high dosage of lethal VX nerve agent.
However, Pyongyang claimed it was an anti-DPRK smear campaign and accused the Malaysian government of conniving with South Korea and the United States that intended to use the death of the DPRK citizen to tarnish its image and even to overthrow the DPRK system.
Pyongyang also sent a high-level delegation to Malaysia to discuss the matter and has urged Malaysia to return the body as soon as possible. But the request was rejected by the Malaysian government.
On Monday, before taking a flight back, Kang expressed "grave concerns over the extreme measures taken" by Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur airport, saying they will harm bilateral ties.
This was the first time that the DPRK diplomat spoke to the media after his expulsion by the Malaysian government on Saturday.
Earlier, Malaysia revoked visa-free entry to DPRK citizens and recalled its ambassador in Pyongyang. Malaysia was one of the few countries that North Koreans could enter without a visa.
The Malaysian government on Monday also directed the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) not to send the national football team to Pyongyang, where the pre-scheduled Asian Cup soccer qualifier match will be held between the two sides. Now Malaysia asked that the match be moved to a neutral venue.
As part of the investigation into the attack, Malaysian police on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Kim Uk Il, an employee of the DPRK national carrier, who was listed as a person of interest by the police along with a second secretary of the DPRK embassy, who is entitled to diplomatic immunity.
Ri Jong Chol, who had been arrested as a suspect after the killing, was handed over to Malaysia's Immigration Department from the police and was deported on Friday from the country as his travel documents had expired.
Malaysia has indicted two female suspects -- an Indonesian woman, a Vietnamese woman -- for murdering the DPRK man. The death penalty will be applied if they are convicted.