PM Najib takes diplomatic tone after North Korea prevents Malaysians from leaving

Malaysia PM Najib Razak has recently softened his stand against North Korea.
Malaysia PM Najib Razak has recently softened his stand against North Korea. Photo courtesy: wikimedia

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak attempted a more cordial tone with North Korea on Wednesday, a day after accusing it of assassinating the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un and treating Malaysians as "hostages."

North Korea banned 11 Malaysians from leaving the country, claiming the move was to "ensure the safety" of its diplomats and citizens in Malaysia until the case was "properly solved." Najib denounced the move and ordered a ban of his own. He also for the first time directly accused North Korea of murdering Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"What we are facing now is the result of their action in assassinating their own citizen in Malaysia, on Malaysian soil, using a strictly banned chemical weapon," Najib told state media agency Bernama on Tuesday.

In Sarawak, 37 North Koreans were detained on Tuesday at a construction site for overstaying their visas, a state government source said. Those who overstayed would be given 30-day extensions, however, an immigration source said.

However, Najib sounded more conciliatory in parliament on Wednesday, saying there were no plans to cut diplomatic ties.

"We are a country that's friendly to them," Najib said, after reassuring the House that the Malaysian citizens were safe. He declined to elaborate on any further moves.

On Monday, Malaysia expelled North Korea's Ambassador Kang Chol for questioning the impartiality of the murder investigation.

Najib had branded the ambassador "diplomatically rude" and were angered by the lack of an apology. He also issued a statement condemning North Korea for their actions following the airport attack.

"This means that we are firm on the question of our honour… there is no one who can undermine us or disrupt us as they please," he said.

Malaysia has also said it would only release Kim's body to the next of kin, refusing demands from North Korea to hand it over without an autopsy.

A man claiming to be Kim Jong Nam's son has appeared in an online video and said he was lying low with his mother and sister. The governments of Netherlands, China, the United States, and a fourth unnamed country reportedly provided emergency humanitarian assistance to protect the family, said a group called Cheollima Civil Defense, which released the video. An official at South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said the man in the video posted on YouTube and embedded below is Kim Han Sol, Kim's 21-year-old son.