Dispute between north korea and malaysia: mutual exit ban

The assassination attempt on Kim Jong Nam is causing disgruntlement: Malaysians are no longer allowed to leave North Korea. Malaysia also imposed an exit ban.

Also here is cordoned off: Police tape outside the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur Photo: ap

After the poison murder of the half-brother of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un in Malaysia, the tone between the two states is becoming increasingly irritated. The communist regime in Pyongyang imposed an exit ban on Malaysian citizens on Tuesday. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak then accused North Korea of hostage-taking. At the same time, however, he also announced that no North Koreans would now be allowed to leave Malaysia either.

Relations between the two countries have been strained since the assassination of Kim Jong Nam in mid-February. The elder half-brother of strongman Kim Jong Un had been attacked by two women with the nerve agent VX at the airport of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur. The 45-year-old died on the way to the hospital. It is suspected that North Korea is behind the poison murder.

With the mutual exit ban, the dispute now reached a new dimension. North Korean state media said Kuala Lumpur must guarantee the safety of North Koreans in Malaysia through a "fair investigation of the case."

It was initially unclear whether the exit ban applied to all Malaysians or only to embassy staff and their relatives. According to information from the Malaysian news agency Bernama, three diplomats and six family members are currently still in North Korea.

Suspects on embassy grounds

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Razak condemned the exit ban in strong terms. "With this despicable measure, which is in complete disregard of international law and diplomatic norms, our citizens are being held hostage." At the same time, he instructed police to prevent all North Koreans in Malaysia from leaving the country "until we have a guarantee of safety for all Malaysians in North Korea."

Until now, Malaysia was among the few countries that maintained relatively friendly relations with North Korea. In recent days, however, Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur have overlapped with mutual accusations. Both governments already declared the other country’s ambassador an "undesirable person." Expulsion of ambassadors is among the harshest measures in diplomatic dealings between two states.

One of a total of seven North Koreans wanted for the murder is said to still be on the embassy grounds in Kuala Lumpur. The two women from Vietnam and Indonesia who allegedly carried out the attack are already in custody in Malaysia. They face the death penalty. The body of Kim Jon Nam is still in Malaysia.

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