Anifah: First official meeting between M'sia and N. Korea soon to iron out issues

ARFA YUNUS and BALQIS LIM


KUALA LUMPUR: The first official meeting between Putrajaya and Pyongyang will be held in the next few days in an effort to iron out issues regarding Malaysians who have been barred from leaving North Korea, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.

“We had three unofficial meetings previously, which were held between our officials and North Korean officials (from their embassy in Kuala Lumpur). These were as a preparation ahead of an upcoming official meeting between the two governments.

“In a few days’ time, we will be having the first official meeting. The time and date has yet to be confirmed,” he told the media when met at the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR) here today.

Earlier Anifah had a brief meeting with the family members of the Malaysians currently stranded in North Korea. As requested by the families, Anifah had told the press to respect their privacy.

He also gave assurance that the Malaysians currently in the republic are in “good health and high spirits”, adding that they were free to move about and lead a normal life.

“Wisma Putra is in constant communication with them. I had a phone conversation with Mohd Nor Azrin Mohd Zain just a moment ago. The North Korean government has given us the assurance of the safety of all Malaysians in North Korea.

“The government is doing all that we can to bring them back home as soon as possible. We are currently engaging with the North Korean government for this purpose through its embassy in Kuala Lumpur.”

Pyongyang had said last week that all Malaysians currently in North Korea would be barred from leaving the country until “the incident that happened in Malaysia is properly solved”, according to a news report.

The move came amid a heated diplomatic spat over the murder of Kim Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 13.

At that time, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that 11 Malaysians were in North Korea. However, two United Nations’ World Food Programme employees have since left the republic and are currently in Beijing.

On the discussion between both countries, Anifah said that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak have entrusted the Foreign Ministry to handle the issue.

He added that the Malaysians in North Korea had also received support from other foreign missions in Pyongyang.

“For example during yesterday’s Friday prayers, the Ambassadors from the OIC Embassies offered their support and assistance, including the possibility of bringing supplies from outside North Korea,” he said.

When asked on what will happen to Jong-nam’s body, Anifah said that it will be discussed when the time comes.

“Eventually we will have to surrender the body to someone, either the (North Korean) government or the next-of-kin. We will work on that when the time comes.”