KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s 2019 Asian Cup qualifying match against North Korea, scheduled for the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on June 8, has been postponed because of geopolitical tension, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said on Wednesday.
Diplomatic relations between the countries soured following the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged elder half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February.
The AFC’s decision, made because of concern about “geo-political tension on the Korean Peninsula”, came hours after South Korean President Moon Jae-in said there was a “high possibility” of conflict with North Korea, which is pressing ahead with nuclear and missile programmes it says it needs to counter U.S. aggression.
As tension rose over Kim’s killing, the Malaysian national team was barred from travelling to North Korea, preventing them from playing the match originally scheduled for March 28.
The AFC rescheduled the match to June 8 but Malaysia appealed against having to play it at a venue they did not consider safe for their players.
“Although the AFC had proposed on May 8, 2017 that the match ... take place in the DPR Korea capital, recent developments have forced the AFC to reconsider the decision on the grounds of safety and security,” the confederation said.
The contest will now be played on the FIFA match day of Oct. 5, but the venue has yet to be decided.
The AFC said it would “closely monitor the safety and security position in coming months”, as well as the conduct of AFC Cup and AFC U-23 Championship qualifying matches in Pyongyang before taking a decision on the venue, it added.
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by John O'Brien