In response to North Korea’s move to bar Malaysians from leaving the country, Malaysia has also retaliated with its own ban.
All these while the Malaysian police investigating the murder of Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia, sought to question up to three men hiding in the North Korean embassy.
Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak called Pyongyang for the immediate release of its citizens after the North Korean government announced the ban, while instructing Malaysian police: “Prevent all North Korean citizens in Malaysia from leaving the country until we are assured of the safety and security of all Malaysians in North Korea.”
Najib called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council and said in a statement, “This abhorrent act, effectively holding our citizens hostage, is in total disregard of all international law and diplomatic norms.”
In Aljazeera’s report, it is said that the North’s foreign ministry had notified the Malaysian embassy in Pyongyang of the reason for the ban.
“All Malaysian nationals in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will be temporarily prohibited from leaving the country until the incident that happened in Malaysia is properly solved,” the official Korea Central News Agency said on 7 March, citing the foreign ministry.
The ministry also said it had hoped the case would be swiftly and fairly resolved in order to (re)develop bilateral ties with Malaysia.
According to the Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Reezal Marican there were 11 Malaysians in North Korea, three at the embassy, two UN workers and six family members.
Kim Jong-nam is believed to have been killed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport. A CCTV footage captured two women shoving something in his face. He later suffered a seizure and was dead before he reached the hospital.
Malaysia is one of the diminishing number of countries that has close relations with North Korea, which is under tightening global sanctions caused by its nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. Malaysians and North Koreans can visit each other’s country without visas but the bond is now severed.
Malaysian officials has confirmed that during its autopsy that the found the chemical on the face of Kim, who died on 13 Feb, after he was attacked inside Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Malaysian police also had launched an investigation into how the killers of Kim Jong-nam obtained the highly toxic nerve agent allegedly used in the assassination of the North Korean leader’s half brother.
Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-un are both sons of former late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il from different mothers.
North Korea has not confirmed the dead man’s identity, but has reacted badly by barring Malaysian from leaving the country; it also has condemned the Malaysian investigation as an attempt to smear it.
Malaysia had ousted the North’s ambassador as diplomatic tensions soared, but Pyongyang has also retaliated last Monday (6 Mar) by formally ordering out his counterpart.
Malaysian diplomats and nationals in the North would be allowed to ‘conduct business and live normally’ while the travel ban is in place, it added.
Earlier, Malaysia had cancelled visa-free entry for North Koreans.
The Star reported on 7 Mar that Malaysian diplomatic staff at the embassy in Pyongyang are safe and sound.
A Malaysian official confirmed this when contacted by the Star. “We have communicated with our staff and are in touch with them. They have been advised to lead their lives normally,” said the official on Tuesday.