KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — Malaysia has no plans to close its embassy nor end diplomatic ties with North Korea for now, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.
He explained that Putrajaya will still maintain its tie to the reclusive state as it needs a channel of communication open to bring home the Malaysians stranded in Pyongyang after the Kim Jong-un regime imposed an exit ban.
“At the moment they’re still on because this provides us with a channel. You need to have a channel to communicate with them and negotiates. We are not shutting down the embassy,” he said in the Parliament lobby here.
He also said Malaysia is in the process of looking into North Korea’s demands, but for the time being, the government will not be budging from its decisions with regards to the North Koreans here and the controversial death of Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of their former leader Kim Jong-il.
“We now need to examine what is the need of the North Korean government.
“In the meantime, we stick to our decision to not allow North Korean people here to leave the country and we also have asked the police to investigate the death of Kim Chol,” he said, using the passport name for Jong-nam.
Najib also said the government has no intention of having any feud with North Korea but had to resort to severe measures to protect Malaysia’s interests.
“We didn’t pick a quarrel with them. It was never our intention, but when a crime is committed, especially when a chemical weapon is used in Malaysia, we are bound to protect the interest of our people,” he said.
He also explained the reason the authorities could not positively identify “Kim Chol” as Jong-nam was there was no DNA proof from his living kin.
“We are also awaiting identification of the body because DNA analysis have not been carried out.
“It is impossible to do since no one has come forward... possibly because the person is scared to do so,” he said.
Najib demurred on disclosing details of the government’s ongoing negotiations with North Korea to protect the safety of the stranded Malaysians there.
“We have efforts and plans but I cannot reveal everything. The welfare of our Malaysians citizens is of utmost importance. Sometimes it’s best conducted in secrecy.
“Because it’s a sensitive issue, we need to prioritise the safety of Malaysians so if there is anything, we can’t negotiate through the media,” he added.
Najib said the Malaysians in the North Korean capital have not been taken into custody and have been given an assurance that they can move about freely, with the exception that they cannot leave the country.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed yesterday that 11 Malaysians are in Pyongyang comprising three embassy staff and their six family members and the remaining two are with the UN’s World Food Programme.