March 08, 2017 12:41
North Korea on Tuesday effectively held all Malaysians in the country hostage in a diplomatic row with Malaysia over the Feb. 13 assassination of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Malaysia denounced the move and immediately banned all North Koreans from leaving the country in retaliation, sending their diplomatic relations into meltdown.
The 11 Malaysians in North Korea are Malaysian Embassy staff and their families and UN employees.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry told the Malaysian Embassy that all Malaysian nationals "will be temporarily prohibited from leaving the country until the incident that happened in Malaysia is properly solved" and until the safety of North Korean diplomats and nationals in Malaysia is completely ensured, the official [North] Korean Central News Agency said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said all North Koreans in Malaysia must in turn stay "until we are assured of the safety and security of all Malaysians in North Korea."
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had earlier said the ban only covers North Korean Embassy staff and other officials in Kuala Lumpur. There are some 1,000 North Koreans in Malaysia, some of them believed to be professional spies.
Overwhelming evidence suggests that North Korea was behind the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but North Korea has furiously denied it and accused Malaysia of conspiring with South Korea to tarnish its name.
In a session of the Malaysian National Security Council, Razak said, "This abhorrent act, effectively holding our citizens hostage, is in total disregard of all international law and diplomatic norms." On Friday, the Malaysian Cabinet will discuss cutting off all official and commercial ties with the North, the Malay Mail reported.
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