Tantamount to 'taking hostages', says Khairy on Pyongyang move

SAMEER AHMED SHAIKH

KUALA LUMPUR: Youth and Sport Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has labeled Pyongyang’s act of preventing Malaysians there from leaving as tantamount to “taking hostages.”

Via a Twitter posting, Khairy, who is also Umno Youth chief, said North Korea must ensure the free passage of Malaysian citizens.

“Tantamount to taking hostages. This is unacceptable. DPRK must allow free passage of Malaysians at once,” he wrote via his handle @khairykj.

His comments came after North Korea declared that all Malaysians currently in North Korea have been barred from leaving the country.

The move, seen by many as effectively holding the Malaysians hostage, comes amid an increasingly heated diplomatic row over the killing of Kim Jong-Nam in Kuala Lumpur.

Pyongyang said the Malaysians would be barred from leaving until the “the incident that happened in Malaysia is properly solved," according to a news report.

Diplomatic tension between both nations rose following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 13.

Pyongyang yesterday expelled the Malaysian ambassador to North Korea to in a ‘tit-for-tat’ move, after North Korean envoy to Malaysia, Kang-Chol, was earlier declared persona non grata.