KUALA LUMPUR: Uncertainty continues to shroud North Korea’s Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia with the latter appearing increasingly likely  to be forced to forfeit the tie writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The confusion dates back long before the latest geopolitical confrontations between the North Korean regime and the United States.

Last February a political storm over the killing of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother at Kuala Lumpur airport led to postponement of the March 28 tie in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

The Asian confederation asked the North Koreans to propose an alternative neutral venue for a rescheduled match on June 8. This met with silence from Pyongyang. It was then unable to find a neutral venue with the North Koreans refusing to concede their right to host the game.

In a standard international sporting context the Malaysians’ initial refusal to play would have been considered due cause for forfeit but the AFC sought to avoid to this option, out of its own political concerns.

The AFC hoped that the Malaysian government would give its football association tacit approval to play in North Korea on a rescheduled date of October 5.

However the MFA has now told the AFC that Malaysia has barred all nationals from visiting North Korea.

This left the AFC with no option but to postpone the tie and “refer the matter to the appropriate committees to decide on the future status of this match.”