In an unexpected turn of events, North Korea has effectively taken Malaysians as hostage, barring them from leaving the country on Tuesday.
This sparked a tit-for-tat action by Malaysia, banning North Koreans from leaving Malaysia, in a growing row over the killing of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jung-un.
North Korea accused Malaysia of wrong doing in its investigation of the murder of Kim Jong-nam at the budget terminal at KLIA2 early in February.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak accused North Korea of “effectively holding our citizens hostage” and scheduled an emergency meeting of his National Security Council later on Tuesday.
“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,” said Najib, who also indicated that Malaysia wanted to maintain good relations with all nations but the priority remains the safety of its citizens.
Malaysia says the assassins used VX nerve agent, a chemical listed by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.
North Korea argued that the VX nerve agent, being a weapon of mass destruction and banned by the UN, could not have been used in the attack at the airport.
A Malaysian blogger residing in Australia said the attack could have had a China link, since it could have been done with an aphrodisiac called ‘Spanish Fly’.
Issuing the temporary ban on Malaysians leaving the country, the North Korean authorities said this is in force “until the incident that happened in Malaysia is properly solved,” state-run Korea Central News Agency said.
“In this period the diplomats and citizens of Malaysia may work and live normally under the same conditions and circumstances as before.”
The escalation of the hostility between Malaysia and North Korea started with the North Korean Ambassador in Malaysia accusing the local police of mishandling the investigation, saying they could not be trusted.
This sparked outrage among Malaysian officials.
The solution to the problem, according to North Korean officials could reside in Malaysia handing over the body of Kim to Pyongyang.