KUALA LUMPUR, March 7 2017 : Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today condemned the North Korea’s decision to prevent Malaysians currently in that country from leaving and described it as “holding our citizens hostage”.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the North Korea’s decision to prevent Malaysian citizens from leaving the country,” said Najib in a statement.
“This abhorrent act, effectively holding our citizens hostage, is in total disregard of all international law and diplomatic norms.”
The Prime Minister said he had directed the police to prevent all North Korean citizens in Malaysia from leaving the country until it has been assured that all Malaysians in North Korea are safe.
“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,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had earlier said only diplomats and staff at the North Korean embassy are prevented from leaving the country.
Najib said 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,” he added.
Najib also said he has summoned an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.
“Our hope is for a swift resolution. I call upon the North Korean leadership to immediately allow our citizens to leave to avoid further escalation,” he added.
North Korea said today it has 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.
Malaysia has been outraged by the murder of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13 by assassins using VX nerve agent, a super toxic chemical listed by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.
Police have identified eight North Koreans wanted in connection with the murder, including a senior North Korean diplomat and a state airline employee. The only people charged so far are a Vietnamese woman and an Indonesian woman.
Before the murder, North Korea could count Malaysia as one of its few friends, but Malaysia has since stopped visa-free travel and yesterday expelled North Korea’s ambassador for questioning the impartiality of the murder investigation.
Relations between the two countries started on June 30, 1973. The North Korean embassy was opened in Kuala Lumpur in 2003 along with the Malaysian embassy in Pyongyang.
Malaysians became the first to travel to North Korea without a visa in 2009.
North Korea imports refined oil, natural rubber and palm oil from Malaysia while Malaysia imports iron and steel products from North Korea.