Tit-for-tat measures over Kim’s killing

Kuala Lumpur: North Korea and Malaysia Tuesday banned each other’s citizens from leaving their countries, with Kuala Lumpur saying its nationals were effectively being held “hostage” in a row over the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam.
The extraordinary tit-for-tat moves came as the reclusive North faced growing international condemnation for a volley of missiles it fired into the Sea of Japan, defying stringent global sanctions aimed at halting its weapons programme.
Tuesday’s developments marked a dramatic heightening of tensions with Malaysia three weeks after the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was murdered at Malaysia’s main airport with the banned VX nerve agent.
The North decided to “temporarily ban the exit of Malaysian citizens in the DPRK”, the official news agency KCNA said, citing the foreign ministry and using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The prohibition would remain in place “until the safety of the diplomats and citizens of the DPRK in Malaysia is fully guaranteed through the fair settlement of the case that occurred in Malaysia”. The Malaysian foreign ministry said 11 of its citizens were currently in North Korea — three embassy staff, six family members and two who work for the UN’s World Food Programme.
The WFP said the pair, as UN staffers, “are international civil servants who do not represent any country”. It said it took the safety of its staff seriously and was closely monitoring the situation
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak condemned the ban and said he was ordering a similar ban on the movement of “all North Korean citizens in Malaysia”. Analysts said they could number around 1,000.
“This abhorrent act, effectively holding our citizens hostage, is in total disregard of all international law and diplomatic norms,” Najib said.
— AFP