Nat'l Security Council convenes emergency meeting on N. Korea issue

HARIZ MOHD and BALQIS LIM


KUALA LUMPUR: The National Security Council this evening held an emergency meeting to discuss the diplomatic row with North Korea, following recent developments which saw a strain in ties between the two countries.

The meeting, which commenced at 5.35pm, was chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak took about 45 minutes. It was held at the VIP Meeting Room at the Air Movement Building of the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Subang, here.

Among those in attendance were Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak, NSC director-general Gen (R) Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zain, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, and Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.

Also present were Immigration director-general Datuk Mustafar Ali, Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali, Armed Forces chief General Tan Sri Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor, federal police Special Branch director Datuk Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun and Foreign Ministry secretary-general Datuk Ramlan Ibrahim.

A spokesman from the Prime Minister's Office told reporters that the meeting was held to discuss how the issue with North Korea can be resolved.

However, the spokesman said there would be no official statement issued nor would there be a press conference on the emergency meeting.

"There might be a statement issued tomorrow," said the spokesman.

It came after North Korea issued an order barring all Malaysians in the country from leaving, which was seen as a retaliation following Putrajaya's decision to expel the North's ambassador to Kuala Lumpur, Kang Chol, by declaring him as a persona non grata.

Putrajaya had since issued a similar order against the North Koreans here from leaving Malaysia.

Najib, in a statement this morning, had strongly condemned Pyongyang's decision to prevent all Malaysian citizens from leaving North Korea, and called for their immediate release.

Describing it as an “abhorrent act” tantamount to holding Malaysians hostage, Najib said protecting Malaysian citizens was his utmost priority.

“Our hope is for a swift resolution. I call upon the North Korean leadership to immediately allow our citizens to leave to avoid any further escalation.”

“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,” said Najib. - Additional reporting by Faisal Asyraf