- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2017

Malaysia and North Korea are now effectively in a mutual hostage situation as each nation Tuesday barred the others’ nationals from leaving.

The two Asian nations have been in escalating diplomatic feud since North Korean assassins killed their dictator’s estranged half-brother in Kuala Lumpur airport.

Matters turned worse Tuesday as, according to the Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang summoned Malaysia’s ambassador to tell him that none of his countrymen could leave North Korea. It wasn’t immediately clear how many Malaysians are in the reclusive communist dictatorship.

The “temporary ban will be kept until the incident in Malaysia is resolved in a fair manner,” KCNA wrote.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that North Korea is “effectively holding our citizens hostage” by barring them from leaving.

Malaysia reciprocated Tuesday by banning North Korean citizens from leaving the country, although initially the ban affected only North Korean Embassy officials and staff.

Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world to have a diplomatic presence in North Korea and had allowed visa-free travel to North Koreans (the latter was promptly revoked after the Kim Jong Nam assassination in February).

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said “when we are confronted with a country that has breached international diplomatic norms and ethics, we have no choice.”

He said Malaysia was forced to act because Pyongyang had “manipulated what we call a murder case.”

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