Malaysia involved in 'very sensitive' talks with N. Korea over release of 9 hostages, says PM Najib Razak

Kim Jong-nam was killed by smearing VX nerve agent on 13 February at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak Reuters

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said at press conference on 29 March that the government is engaged in "very sensitive" talks with North Korea over the nine Malaysians, including three embassy staff and six family members, being prevented from leaving Pyongyang after the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

"This is a discussion with a government and this is very sensitive...What is important for us is the result. What we want to achieve is the safety of the Malaysians in Pyongyang and also maintain the image of Malaysia as a sovereign country which upholds the principle of rule of law," said the prime minister, as reported.

Kim Jong-nam, the apparent heir to his father and former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, was assassinated by two foreign women who smeared VX nerve agent, a chemical listed by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction, on his face at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at about 9 am on 13 February before his flight to Macau.

Since then, both the countries are at loggerheads with each other. Malaysia, which is one of the few countries in the world that had unusually strong ties with the nuclear-armed North Korea for years, is embroiled in the tussle over custody of the victim's body. Meanwhile, South Korea has consistently blamed the North for the assassination, citing what they say was a standing order from Kim Jong-Un to kill his half-brother, who lived in exile.

However, Pyongyang has never acknowledged Kim's identity, who was carrying a North Korean passport bearing the name of Kim Chol, and denied the charge and disputed the autopsy. While the North Korean authority believes that man died of a heart attack and the body should rightfully be handed to them, Malaysia has come up with official confirmation of his identity by using DNA evidence and will hand over the body only to his next of kin. This has enraged North Korea and it now claims that Malaysia is in cahoots with its enemies.