In an apparent exception to a departure ban after the killing of Kim Jong-Nam, Malaysia will deport 50 North Koreans for overstaying visas. The body of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's half-brother has been embalmed.
Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters on Tuesday that 50 North Koreans working in the state of Sarawak on Borneo island - home to coal mines which often employ foreign workers - would be deported from Malaysia.
"We will send the North Korean workers in Sarawak who have exceeded their [working] visa back to Pyongyang for overstaying," Zahid said, adding that they will "be deported soon."
The assassination of Kim Jong-Nam in Malaysia in February sparked a heated diplomatic standoff between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang, which has seen both countries expel each other's ambassador and refuse to let the other's citizens leave. Three Malaysian embassy staff and six family members are stranded in North Korea as a result.
The deputy prime minister failed to disclose exactly why the Malaysian government had decided on the exception.
No return without DNA
One month on since the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was killed, Malaysian authorities are still refusing to release his body without a DNA sample from next-of-kin.
Kim was killed on February 13. Two women - one Vietnamese and one Indonesian - were seen on CCVTV smearing his face with the banned VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur's airport. The suspects have been arrested and charged with the murder.
Pyongyang, which never confirmed Kim's identity, has repeatedly demanded the return of his body to North Korea. Having rejected the findings of the Malaysian authorities, North Korea claims that the investigation into Kim's killing is an attempt to smear the secretive regime.
Although Malaysia has never directly accused North Korea of being behind the attack, many speculate that Pyongyang must have orchestrated it.
Experts say the VX nerve agent used to kill Kim was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory, and North Korea is widely believed to possess large quantities of chemical weapons.
Body embalmed in Malaysia
Zahid said on Tuesday Kim's body, which is currently kept in a morgue in the Malaysian capital, has been embalmed to prevent it from decomposing.
"It's an effort to preserve the body, because if it is kept in the mortuary it might decompose so we did this to preserve the body," he said.
Prior to the high-profile killing, relations between North Korea and Malaysia had been particularly warm, with a reciprocal visa-free travel deal for visitors.
ksb/rt (Reuters, AP, AFP)