KOTA BHARU, Malaysia: Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak on Sunday (Mar 12) vowed to ensure the safety of the nine Malaysians stranded in North Korea, and warned Pyongyang not to toy with Malaysia.
Pyongyang banned all Malaysian citizens from leaving amid a diplomatic spat over the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, Kim Jong Nam.
On Sunday, Najib said that when others respected Malaysia, and remained friendly to the citizens of Malaysia, Malaysia would also show respect and friendship to the other party, Sin Chew Daily reported.
"Respect us and make sure our people are safe," he said.
He made the comments during a speech at a ceremony for a new hospital in Kelantan state, located along the eastern coast of Peninsula Malaysia.
Separately, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi weighed in on the issue.
"I am confident the prime minister is trying to maintain diplomatic ties between North Korea and Malaysia to facilitate friendly discussions between both countries," he said, adding that there was no need for "third parties" to be involved.
He said that if there were good relations between Malaysia and North Korea, the issue could be resolved without any delay.
315 NORTH KOREANS STILL IN MALAYSIA
Based on immigration department records, 2,453 North Koreans came to Malaysia between 2014 and 2017. 801 of them were issued temporary work permits, the deputy prime minister told the Star Online.
Another 193 were in Malaysia under the Malaysia MySecond Home programme; 11 were students and 180 were mine workers in Sarawak. He added that records showed that 315 remain in Malaysia, while the rest have returned home.
He added that Malaysia would take action against North Koreans still in the country who were involved in "negative" activities, though their movements were not being specifically monitored.
Malaysian police have been ordered to stop all North Korean citizens from leaving the country until the safety of Malaysians in North Korea was assured.
Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said on Saturday that the country will begin formal negotiations with North Korea in the coming days on the return of the stranded Malaysians.