Diplomatic tension eases between N Korea, Malaysia
KUALA LUMPURMar 13, 2017 - 12:00 am GMT+3
Mar 13, 2017 12:00 am
Malaysia will in the coming days begin formal talks with North Korea on the return of nine Malaysians stranded in Pyongyang, the Southeast Asian nation's foreign minister said on Saturday, after they were barred from leaving the country amid a diplomatic spat.
The two countries have sparred over the February 13th killing in Kuala Lumpur of Kim Jong-Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-Un, and this week the incident sparked a diplomatic standoff as both countries slapped travel bans on each other's citizens.
Malaysian officials have since diffused tensions, saying ties with the reclusive state will not be severed.
Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said North Korea had indicated they were ready to start negotiations.
"They want to start talking. We do not know what their demands are - we need to figure out what we can do to get the best result," he told reporters on Saturday.
He said many countries had offered to mediate between the two but that "no countries will act as a third party" or mediator.
He added no time or location had been set yet for the official negotiations.
Two Malaysians - staffers at the United Nations - were able to fly out of Pyongyang earlier this week using UN passports, leaving nine behind, including three children.
Malaysia has accused the nuclear-armed state of masterminding Kim Jong-Nam's murder and identified eight North Koreans, including three still in Kuala Lumpur, in connection with the killing.
North Korea has in turn criticized Malaysia's handling of the investigation as it had requested that the body be immediately sent to Pyongyang and had also demanded that no autopsies be made. Malayisian authorities proceeded to conduct two of the, outraging North Korea which later demanded a joint investigation in cooperation with the international community.
Kim Jong-Nam, who had been living under Beijing's protection in Macau and had been known to criticize his family's regime, was killed using the highly toxic VX nerve agent. The chemical is classified by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction.
Anifah said the government is in "constant communication" with the stranded Malaysians. He added that they had been offered support from other foreign missions in Pyongyang, including the provision of supplies from outside North Korea.
Malaysia's police chief on Friday officially confirmed the victim was Kim Jong-Nam, something Pyongyang has denied.
Malaysia has so far refused to comply with North Korean demands to hand over the victim's body to the embassy. Foreign minister Anifah said on Saturday authorities were yet to discuss with their North Korean counterparts whether they would give the body over to the North Korean government or the family.
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Research Associate at Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University