World

Two Malaysians allowed to leave N Korea

Nine still stranded in Pyongyang, negotiations ongoing

KUALA LUMPUR: Two Malaysian United Nations employees were allowed to leave North Korea yesterday, a spokesman for the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said, while the Malaysian government is negotiating for a travel ban to be lifted on nine citizens still stranded there.

"WFP confirms that two WFP staff of Malaysian nationality have left North Korea and arrived in Beijing today," said Ms Frances Kennedy at the WFP headquarters in Italy.

North Korea had barred Malaysians from leaving on Tuesday, sparking tit-for-tat action by Malaysia as diplomatic tensions escalated over an investigation into the murder in Kuala Lumpur of Mr Kim Jong Nam, estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The nine Malaysians are still at the embassy in Pyongyang.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page yesterday, Prime Minister Najib Razak said the North Korean leadership had assured the safety of the Malaysians and their freedom to carry out daily activities, even though they were not allowed to leave the country.

Malaysia has also begun negotiations with North Korea to lift the travel ban and allow its citizens to return home.

The UN has called for calm between Malaysia and North Korea and urged them to settle their differences through "established diplomatic practice".

Mr Kim was killed on Feb 13.

Malaysian police believe he was killed by VX, a chemical classified by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction.

Separately, Malaysia has warned that an investigation into the murder "may take longer."

"Due to the complexity and sensitivity of the case, investigation may take longer than what we hope for," Mr Ahmad Nazri Yusof, Malaysia's permanent representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), told a meeting of The Hague-based body on Tuesday.

"Malaysia will fully cooperate with the OPCW and other international organisations to bring the perpetrators to justice," he said in a statement posted on the OPCW website.

Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, OPCW states parties can "in cases of particular gravity" bring an issue to the attention of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly for possible action.

When asked if any action should be taken over the murder, China's UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi said on Wednesday: "The investigation is still going on.

"I think we need to see how the process will lead and what the true situation is." - REUTERS

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