KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — Malaysia faced intimidation and threats in its dealings with the murder of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi disclosed today.
However, he said the government has rational leaders and will not respond in kind to such tactics, two Malay news outlets reported.
“Yes, we were threatened, I don’t want to mention more than that because nine of our people are still in that country. I have mentioned they also have citizens in our country.
“We don’t want to use this as ‘bargaining power’ or for negotiations in which we will sacrifice our people or where we will sacrifice their people,” he was quoted by Utusan Online as telling reporters in Kuala Terengganu this evening after launching an Umno branch meeting at the Terengganu state stadium.
Ahmad Zahid was also reported saying Malaysia could take stern action in retaliation, but took into consideration there were lives of people from two countries at stake.
“Malaysia has rational leaders. Insya-Allah, as long as they take good care of our people, we will take care of their people,” Utusan Online quoted him saying.
Ahmad Zahid added that Malaysia will treat all foreign dignitaries with respect as long as they accord the same to Malaysians.
In a separate report by Sinar Harian, Ahmad Zahid stressed that Malaysia is not to be treated as an international criminal stage by anyone.
“We do not want our country to be a stepping stone or be made a place to launch violence or international crimes.
“As such, I urge the people to unite and set aside political, religious and racial differences for the country’s sake,” he was quoted saying.
Nine Malaysians, three who are diplomats and the rest their family, have been stranded in Pyongyang for the past few weeks after North Korea barred them from leaving following the diplomatic spat over Jong-nam’s February 13 death on Malaysian soil.
There are some 300 North Koreans here and Malaysia is taking steps to deport those whose work permits have expired.
Putrajaya previously said other North Koreans in the country are similarly barred from exiting for now.
Pyongyang has demanded the return of Jong-nam’s body while Putrajaya is mulling its next move after his family agreed to leave it to the government to handle as it sees fit.