Malaysia to start talks with North Korea over stranded citizens in ′next few days′ | News | DW | 11.03.2017
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Malaysia to start talks with North Korea over stranded citizens in 'next few days'

Malaysia's foreign minister has said the two governments hope to begin talks soon to secure the release of each other's citizens. Tensions flared between the countries following the killing of Kim Jong Nam.

Malaysian officials will start formal talks with North Korea on negotiating the return of nine Malaysians stranded in Pyongyang, the foreign minister said on Saturday.

Three Malaysian embassy staff and six family members are stuck in the North Korean capital after Pyongyang barred Malaysians from leaving the country on Tuesday - prompting the same move from the Malaysian government.

"Talks are set to begin ... in next few days" with Pyongyang, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told a news conference.

"They want to start talking, but ... before we start talking we have to establish a lot of factors first," he said, without offering further details.

He added that although several countries offered to mediate between the two countries, there will be no "third party" at the talks.

The mysterious poisoning death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, last month at Kuala Lumpur's International Airport, sparked a tense standoff between the previously friendly Asian nations.

Identifying the body

Malaysian officials claim Kim Jong Nam died after two women smeared his face with VX nerve agent. North Korea, however, has never confirmed the identity of the dead man but denounced the investigation as an attempt to smear the regime.

Pyongyang has also demanded Malaysia return Kim Jong Nam's body, but Kuala Lumpur authorities have refused to release the corpse without a DNA sample from his next-of-kin.

Anifah said that the matter of the body and other factors will be discussed with North Korean authorities when the talks begin, adding: "We don't want to keep the body more than what is necessary."

rs/jlw (AP, AFP, Reuters)