Nine Malaysians who had been barred from leaving North Korea were allowed to depart on Thursday in a deal giving Pyongyang the remains of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korea’s leader, the Malaysian government said.
The agreement, announced by Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, ends a diplomatic standoff that followed the Feb. 13 killing of Mr. Kim with a banned chemical weapon at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Angered by Malaysia’s investigation of the killing, Pyongyang said on March 7 that Malaysians would not be allowed to leave North Korea, and Malaysia responded in kind.
“I am pleased to announce that the nine Malaysians who had been barred from leaving North Korea have now been allowed to return to Malaysia,” Mr. Najib said on Thursday in a statement issued by his office.
Mr. Najib said that North Koreans who had been prohibited from leaving Malaysia would now be free to go. It was unclear whether that would include two North Korean suspects in Mr. Kim’s killing. The suspects had been hiding at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital.
A third suspect, who also took refuge at the embassy, has diplomatic immunity and can leave the country without facing charges.
“The government believes strongly in the principles of justice and sovereignty,” Mr. Najib said. “Our police investigation into this serious crime on Malaysian soil will continue. I have instructed for all possible measures to be taken to bring those responsible for this murder to justice.”
The prime minister’s office made the announcement after the group of nine Malaysians, consisting of diplomats and their family members, had left North Korea. They were expected to arrive in Kuala Lumpur early Friday.
North Korea has consistently maintained that the man killed was Kim Chol, the name on the passport he was carrying, and not Kim Jong-nam, the estranged brother of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. The North also suggested that the victim had died of a heart attack, not from poison.
The Malaysian police have arrested two women, one Indonesian and the other Vietnamese, and charged them with murder, accusing them of smearing VX nerve agent on Mr. Kim’s face.
The police also identified seven North Korean men who they said had organized and participated in the plot. Four left the country immediately after the attack, and the other three holed up at the embassy.
Mr. Najib said the Malaysian authorities had obtained a letter from Mr. Kim’s family authorizing the handover of his body to North Korea, clearing the way for the agreement.
“I had a deep personal concern about this matter, and we worked intensively behind the scenes to achieve this successful outcome,” Mr. Najib said.
Continue reading the main story