Nine days on, M'sian stuck in N. Korea still safe, in good condition

HASHINI KAVISHTRI KANNAN

CYBERJAYA: It has been nine days since North Korea banned Malaysians in the country from leaving, but by all accounts, our citizens there are safe and in good condition.

Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican said the ministry is in constant contact with Malaysians in North Korea, and are up-to-date on their situation there.

"There is nothing to worry about. They all are doing fine. I call them personally almost every day to check on their well-being," Reezal told reporters at the Sekolah Seri Puteri (SSP) today.

When asked about negotiations between Malaysia and North Korea on the ongoing diplomatic spat, he said only Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak can speak on the matter.

At Parliament earlier, Najib said Malaysia has not started formal negotiations with North Korea over the release of nine Malaysians stranded in Pyongyang.

"When the time comes, we will negotiate formally with North Korea," he said, adding that Malaysians there have nothing to worry about.

"Our people there are safe. It's guaranteed, and there is nothing to worry about," Najib told reporters.

Nine Malaysians currently in North Korea were barred from leaving the country after Pyongyang issued a travel ban on Malaysian citizens there last week.

In response, Malaysia issued a similar ban to stop North Koreans from leaving Malaysia.

The relationship between North Korea and Malaysia has been strained following the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) on Feb 13.