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Mexico expels North Korean ambassador over nuclear tests

Mexico on Thursday ordered North Korea’s ambassador to leave the country as punishment for Pyongyang’s recent nuclear tests.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto declared Ambassador Kim Hyong Gil persona non grata, granting him 72 hours to leave the country. A statement from Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said the action was meant to express the Latin nation’s “absolute rejection” of North Korea’s recent nuclear tests, which include Sunday’s underground detonation of what Pyongyang described as a hydrogen bomb.

“North Korea's nuclear activity is a grave risk to international peace and security and represents a growing threat to the nations of the region, including key allies of Mexico such as Japan and South Korea,” the statement said. It said Peña Nieto ordered Kim’s expulsion because of United Nations Security Council resolutions sanctioning people and entities associated with North Korea’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Along with the nuclear test, North Korea has also test-launched at least four ballistic missiles in recent weeks — including one that flew over Japan — and has boasted about creating a warhead that could be used against the United States.

Mexico has repeatedly called on North Korea to comply with U.N. efforts to thwart the country’s development of ballistic weapons and in recent days has expressed solidarity with allies including South Korea, whose densely populated capital is within striking range of conventional weapons.

The expulsion of the North Korean ambassador could also help Mexico win points with the United States, which has threatened military action against North Korea in recent months.

Mexico, which is locked in tense talks with the U.S. and Canada over updates to the North American Free Trade Agreement, has repeatedly sought to leverage its cooperation with U.S. security efforts during the negotiations.

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

Twitter: @katelinthicum

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