Malaysia will in the coming days begin formal talks with North Korea on the return of nine Malaysians stranded in Pyongyang, the Southeast Asian nation’s foreign minister said on Saturday, after they were barred from leaving the country amid a diplomatic spat.
The two countries have sparred over the Feb. 13 killing in Kuala Lumpur of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, and this week the incident sparked a diplomatic standoff as both countries slapped travel bans on each other’s citizens, reports Reuters.
But Malaysian officials have since diffused tensions, saying ties with the reclusive state will not be severed.
Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said North Korea had indicated they were ready to start negotiations.
“They want to start talking. We do not know what their demands are – we need to figure out what we can do to get the best result,” he told reporters on Saturday.
He said many countries had offered to mediate between the two but that “no countries will act as a third party” or mediator.
He added no time or location had been set yet for the official negotiations.
Two Malaysians – staffers at the United Nations – were able to fly out of Pyongyang earlier this week using UN passports, leaving nine behind, including three children.
Malaysia has accused the nuclear-armed state of masterminding Kim Jong Nam’s murder and identified eight North Koreans, including three still in Kuala Lumpur, in connection with the killing.
North Korea has in turn criticized Malaysia’s handling of the investigation.