Archive for March 7, 2017
Malaysia will wait to question suspects in the Kim Jong-Nam killing believed to be holed up in Kuala Lumpur’s North Korean embassy “even if it takes five years,” the country’s police chief said today. A police cordon was set up outside the embassy after Pyongyang announced it would ban Malaysians from leaving North Korea, prompting an immediate tit-for-tat move from Kuala Lumpur. The travel bans are just the latest twist in a heated diplomatic row over the Cold War-style assassination of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader in Malaysia last month, which has seen Kuala Lumpur expel Pyongyang’s envoy and vice-versa. “We will wait, if it takes five years, we will wait outside. Definitely somebody will come out,” police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said at a press conference in Penang, adding that he believed three people wanted in connection to the murder were in the building. Police set up a barricade with cars blocking both ends of the street leading up to the North Korean embassy shortly after noon, an AFP journalist said. Around a dozen armed officers wearing bulletproof vests were stationed at each end of the road. They rolled out yellow ticker-tape reading “do not cross” and initially denied a request from an embassy official to remove the barricade so a car could leave the compound. Around 100 journalists and photographers were also gathered outside. The embassy, a two-storey neo-colonial house with a North Korean flag fluttering, is situated in Kuala Lumpur’s well-heeled Bukit Damansara area known for its hipster cafes and restaurants. The nascent stand-off has already been compared to the Julian Assange case, which has seen the founder of the secret-spilling Wikileaks website holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012.
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. 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.