Exit bans: N. Korea-Malaysia spat escalates

The North Korean Embassy cordoned off in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, with police stationed outside. Malaysia's move came after its own diplomats were prevented from leaving their embassy in Pyongyang.
The North Korean Embassy cordoned off in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, with police stationed outside. Malaysia's move came after its own diplomats were prevented from leaving their embassy in Pyongyang.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KUALA LUMPUR • At least 11 Malaysians are stuck in North Korea after Pyongyang barred them from leaving the country in an escalation of a bilateral spat following Mr Kim Jong Nam's murder three weeks ago.

Malaysia reciprocated by barring all North Koreans from leaving the country, grounding some 180 people, with Prime Minister Najib Razak calling Pyongyang's move "effectively holding our citizens hostage".

Pyongyang's dramatic move came as Malaysian police said they were keen to question three North Korean men believed to be hiding inside the North Korean Embassy compound in Kuala Lumpur.

The men could shed light on the murder of Mr Kim, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

One of the three men is a second secretary at the embassy, another is an employee of national airline Air Koryo, and the third man's role in the murder case is unclear.

Yesterday, Datuk Seri Najib was given an emergency briefing by Malaysia's National Security Council upon returning from Jakarta, after which he vowed that "we will do everything we can to ensure" that Malaysians in North Korea "return home safely".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'Exit bans: N. Korea-Malaysia spat escalates'. Print Edition | Subscribe