AFC postpones Korea vs Malaysia Asian Cup qualifier as diplomatic tension builds

March 10 – The diplomatic stand-off between North Korea and Malaysia following the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of Pyongyang ruler Kim Jong Un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13 has spilled over into football.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Competitions Committee have postponed the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Final Round Qualifier between DPR Korea and Malaysia due to be played March 28 due to the “escalating diplomatic tension between the Governments”, said an AFC press release.

The AFC had received a request from the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) earlier this week for the match scheduled for Pyongyang to be played at a neutral venue.

The AFC said a new date for the game will be announced “in due course”, but there was no indication whether it would be rescheduled for Pyongyang or to be played in a neutral country.

The two nations were due to open the final phase of qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup finals with a Group B encounter at Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Stadium. Hong Kong and Lebanon will also play in North Korea during qualifying.

The diplomatic tension between the countries increased today when Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called for unity. He is trying bring home nine Malaysians barred from leaving North Korea on Tuesday. Malaysia responded by similarly detaining a number of North Koreans.

Kim Jong Nam was killed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport when he was assaulted by two women who smeared his face with VX, a chemical classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.

Malaysian police have identified eight North Koreans in connection with the murder and they say three are still in Kuala Lumpur, hiding at the North Korean embassy. Malaysia is one of the few countries in the region that has maintained diplomatic relations with the North Koreans.

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