North Korea bans all Malaysians from leaving country, Malaysia hits back with tit-for-tat move

Kim Jong-Nam was killed at the Kuala Lumpur airport by two women using VX nerve agent. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph:( Others )

WION Delhi, India Mar 07, 2017, 04.11 AM (IST)

North Korea on Tuesday banned all Malaysians from leaving the country and Malaysia has responded with a tit-for-tat action, dramatically escalating an already heated diplomatic row over the murder of North Korean leader’s half-brother in Kuala Lumpur.

The North decided to "temporarily ban the exit of Malaysian citizens in the DPRK", Pyongyang's official Korea Central News Agency said, citing the foreign ministry.

The bar would remain in place "until the safety of the diplomats and citizens of the DPRK in Malaysia is fully guaranteed through the fair settlement of the case that occurred in Malaysia".

After Pyongyang announced the move, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he has also instructed the police "to 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".

He said it was an “abhorrent act” which was "in total disregard of all international law and diplomatic norms".  

Malaysian deputy foreign minister Reezal Marican told reporters that there were 11 Malaysians in North Korea: Three at the embassy, two UN workers and six family members.

Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur had unusually strong links for years, but ties have rapidly degenerated in the weeks since Kim Jong-Nam was attacked at an international airport by two women with a potent nerve agent.
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Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur had unusually strong links for years, but ties have rapidly degenerated in the weeks since Kim Jong-Nam was attacked at an international airport by two women with a potent nerve agent.

Seoul has blamed Pyongyang for the assassination, and Kuala Lumpur wants to question several North Koreans, although the only one it arrested was released for lack of evidence.

The North has never confirmed the dead man's identity, but has denounced the Malaysian investigation as an attempt to smear it.

According to KCNA, Pyongyang's foreign ministry expressed hopes that the Malaysian government would solve the issue "as early as possible" from a position of "goodwill" and "setting store by and developing the bilateral relations".

Malaysian diplomats and nationals in the North "may work and live normally under the same conditions and circumstances as before" while the travel ban is in place, it added.

(WION with inputs from agencies)