The Latest: Malaysia PM: N. Korea holding citizens 'hostage'

AP News
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Posted: Mar 07, 2017 12:16 AM
The Latest: Malaysia PM: N. Korea holding citizens 'hostage'

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The Latest on Malaysia's investigation into the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half brother (all times local):

1:05 p.m.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has strongly condemned North Korea's move to bar Malaysians from leaving the country, saying it is "effectively holding our citizens hostage."

Najib said in a statement issued Tuesday that he has instructed police to prevent all North Korean citizens from leaving Malaysia "until we are assured of the safety and security of all Malaysians in North Korea." Earlier, Malaysian officials had said Malaysia's travel ban was limited to North Korean Embassy officials and staff.

Pyongyang issued its ban earlier Tuesday. Malaysia has said it affects 11 of its citizens currently in North Korea. There are believed to be some 1,000 North Koreans working in Malaysia.

Relations between the countries have been disintegrating since Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korea's leader, was attacked with a nerve agent at a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal Feb. 13.

12:30 p.m.

A Malaysian official says the country is preventing North Korean diplomats from leaving because Pyongyang "manipulated" the murder case involving the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half brother.

Malaysia banned North Korean Embassy officials and staff from leaving on Tuesday, soon after North Korea barred all Malaysians from exiting that country. Relations between the countries have been disintegrating since Kim Jong Nam was attacked with a nerve agent at a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal Feb. 13.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi says Malaysia did not want to retaliate but added, "When we are confronted with a country that has breached international diplomatic norms and ethics, we have no choice."

He said Malaysia was forced to act because North Korea had "manipulated what we call a murder case."

11:30 a.m.

Malaysia is now banning North Korean Embassy staff and officials from leaving Malaysia amid growing fallout over the death of Kim Jong Nam.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced the decision soon after Pyongyang said Malaysians can't leave North Korea.

The killing of Kim Jong Nam at an airport in Kuala Lumpur has unleashed an extraordinary diplomatic battle between Malaysia and North Korea.

Malaysian authorities say two women killed him by smearing VX nerve agent on his face as he waited for a flight. But North Korea says Malaysia's investigation is deeply flawed.

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11 a.m.

Pyongyang says it will ban Malaysians from leaving North Korea amid diplomatic disputes over the death of leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother.

The North's state media said Tuesday that its Foreign Ministry had notified the Malaysian Embassy in the country of its decision, saying the ban will be valid until safety of North Korean nationals in Malaysia is guaranteed.

It is not known how many Malaysians are in the North and whether the North Korean decision also covers Malaysian diplomats there.

On Monday, the North said it had ordered Malaysia's ambassador out of the country in a tit-for-tat after Malaysia expelled North Korea's envoy over the killing of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur's airport.

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7:15 p.m.

North Korea has ordered Malaysia's ambassador out of the country in a tit-for-tat after Malaysia expelled North Korea's envoy over the death of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur's airport.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Monday that the Malaysian ambassador has been labeled persona non grata and ordered to leave within 48 hours.

On Saturday, Malaysia ordered North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol to depart within 48 hours after he criticized Malaysia's handling of the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Kang told reporters Monday as he prepared to leave at Kuala Lumpur's airport that Malaysia was taking "extreme measures" that would do "great harm" to bilateral relations.

Malaysia had already announced on Feb. 20 that it was recalling its ambassador to North Korea "for consultations."

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6:15 p.m.

Malaysia's soccer association says the government has barred the national team from traveling to North Korea for a match because of security concerns.

Malaysia is due to play Pyongyang on March 28 for the Asian Cup 2019 qualifying match.

Association secretary-general Hamidin Mohamad Amin said in a statement Monday that Malaysia's expulsion of North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol has "made the current situation unsafe for Malaysians to travel to North Korea for the moment."

Hamidin said the association has written to the Asian Football Confederation to ask for the venue to be shifted from Pyongyang to a neutral arena.

5:55 p.m.

The North Korean ambassador expelled from Malaysia over his criticism of its investigation into the killing of the half brother of North Korea's leader says Kuala Lumpur was taking "extreme measures" that will do "great harm" to bilateral relations.

Ambassador Kang Chol spoke briefly Monday to a chaotic crowd of reporters as he entered the airport a few hours before the deadline Malaysia gave him to leave.

Kang had accused Malaysia of conspiring with North Korea's enemies, and did not respond to Malaysian demands that he apologize. He defended his comments Monday, saying Malaysian officials had conducted an autopsy over Pyongyang's objections and arrested a North Korean who has since been released for lack of evidence.

North Korea disputes Malaysia's determination that the victim was killed by the nerve agent VX. Malaysia has rejected the North's contention that he may have suffered a heart attack.