Malaysian diplomatic staff in Pyongyang barred from leaving embassy

JUNE MOH


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is working through diplomatic channels to guarantee the safety of Malaysian citizens currently trapped in North Korea.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Nur Jazlan Mohamed said he has been informed that Malaysian embassy staff in Pyongyang have been barred from leaving the embassy.

“We are also trying to physically locate the other Malaysians who are in Pyongyang.

“We are concerned over their safety. We don't want anything to happen to them, they could be held hostages.

“We are trying to work through the diplomatic channel to guarantee their safety in North Korea,” he told reporters outside the North Korean embassy here today.

Asked on the identities of the Malaysians in North Korea, Nur Jazlan said they comprised embassy staff, tourists and those doing business there.

Nur Jazlan said the Foreign Ministry has been in contact with their North Korea counterparts on issues concerning the investigation (into the death of Kim Jong-nam) for weeks.

The minister was also asked on whether the high-level North Korean delegation to Malaysia would be allowed to leave the country.

“The order was just issued this morning so we are working on the details. It is fluid and things will change,” he replied.

He said North Koreans at the embassy may be allowed to leave after the ministry determines the exact number of staff at the premises.

“We will ensure that our relationship with North Korea will not escalate to a serious level,” he said.

The embassy was earlier cordoned off by police following Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi’s announcement that Malaysia has barred North Korea’s diplomatic staff from leaving the country.

However, it appears that embassy staff are now free to leave the premises, following what appeared to be a discussion between the embassy's Counsellor (consulate and administrative) Kim Yu Song and police.

An embassy car was seen preparing to leave the premises.