North Korea said on Tuesday it had temporarily banned Malaysians from leaving the country to ensure the safety of its diplomats and citizens in Malaysia amid an escalating row over the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother.
Nearly a dozen Malaysians, three of them embassy staff, are reported to still be in North Korea.
Shortly after North Korea’s announcement, Malaysia National News Agency reported that Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister would not allow North Korean officals and staff from leaving Malaysia.
The North’s foreign ministry has notified the Malaysian embassy in Pyongyang of the reason for the measure and said it had hoped the case would be swiftly and fairly resolved in order to develop bilateral ties with Malaysia, the North’s KCNA news agency reported.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia released the following statement:
1. I condemn in the strongest possible terms North Korea’s decision to prevent Malaysian citizens from leaving the country.
2. This abhorrent act, effectively holding our citizens hostage, is in total disregard of all international law and diplomatic norms.
3. As a peace-loving nation, Malaysia is committed to maintaining friendly relations with all countries. However, protecting our citizens is my first priority, and we will not hesitate to take all measures necessary when they are threatened.
4. I have summoned an emergency meeting of the National Security Council. I have also instructed the Inspector General of 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.
5. Our hope is for a swift resolution. I call upon the North Korean leadership to immediately allow our citizens to leave to avoid any further escalation.