Malaysia has banned its football team from playing in North Korea, citing security concerns as a diplomatic row over the assassination of Kim Jong-nam escalates.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) said it would be "unsafe" for the national team to play an Asian Cup match at the Kim Il-Sung Stadium in Pyongyang on 28 March after North Korea's ambassador to Kuala Lumpur was declared persona non grata and expelled from the country.

The North Korean diplomat, Kang Chol, was expelled on Saturday (4 March) after he did not apologise for accusing Malaysia of colluding with "hostile forces" and his comments that the investigation into the death of Kim Jong-nam could not be trusted. He was given 48 hours to leave the country.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries are strained with Malaysia announcing the cancellation of visa-free entry for North Koreans on 2 March.

Malaysia's decision to ban its national team from playing in North Korea is the latest incident in the diplomatic row.

The expulsion of Chol from Kuala Lumpur was cited as the reason behind the ban. The FAM chief, Hamidin Mohamad Ali, said in a statement: "The government has asked us not to go to Pyongyang," and that the expulsion "appears to have made it unsafe for Malaysians to visit North Korea at this time".

He added that the football association had requested that the match be moved "from Pyongyang to another place that is neutral on the basis of security."

The team were due to take part in a qualifying round for the AFC Asian Cup, which will take place in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.

Kim II Sung Stadium
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un watches a football match at Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang. Reuters