N.Korea temporarily bans exit of Malaysians

Pyongyang, March 7: North Korea on Tuesday issued a temporary ban on all Malaysians from leaving country in the wake of an increasingly heated diplomatic row over the murder of Pyongyang leader's half brother in Kuala Lumpur, a media report said.North Korea's Foreign Ministry has notified the Malaysian embassy in Pyongyang that it will not allow any Malaysians to leave North Korea if it cannot guarantee the safety of its citizens and diplomatic personnel in the Southeast Asian country, Efe news quoted the KCNA news report as saying.In response, the Malaysian Government has banned North Korean embassy staff and officers from leaving the country, reports Malaysia's Star daily. "We don't mean to do this, but it needs to be done," Home Affairs minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in a media briefing."The Home Ministry has made a ruling, effective immediately, that not one staff member or officer of the (North Korean) embassy can leave the country...This will be made effective at all immigration exits nationwide," he added.Ahmad Zahid also confirmed that the travel ban only applies to the diplomatic staff, and that that regular North Korean citizens in Malaysia will be allowed to leave the country.Immediately after his announcement, police surrounded and cordoned off the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.A Malaysian Foreign Ministry source said 100 Malaysians, including 11 embassy staff, are currently in Pyongyang.On March 4, Malaysia declared the ambassador of North Korea, Kang Chol, as "persona non grata" and asked him to leave the country within 48 hours, amid a row over the investigation into the death of Kim Jong-nam.Kim was killed on February 13 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport using the VX nerve agent.