On Thursday, Malaysia said that it will soon dispatch the body of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in exchange for the safe return of 9 Malaysian nationals stranded in Pyongyang.
“… following the completion of the autopsy on the deceased and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea, the coroner has approved the release of the body,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The statement also said that North Korean citizens in Kuala Lumpur will also be allowed to return home.
The Malaysian Prime Minister’s move to resolve the diplomatic crisis comes after weeks of “very sensitive” between the two sides.
Diplomatic relations between Malaysia and Pyongyang took a nosedive after the brutal assassination of Kim Jong-Nam at the Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13.
Kim Jong-Nam was poisoned with a lethal nerve agent by two women in a brazen Cold War-style assassination.
Post the murder, both sides recalled their ambassadors and barred citizens from leaving.
Malaysia claimed that three Malaysian embassy staff and their six family members were stranded in Pyongyang since the murder and were not being allowed to leave.
Earlier Malaysian PM had said that the safety of Malaysian nationals in North Korea was of prime importance.
“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,” PM Najib Razak had said.
South Korea has blamed Pyongyang for the killing of Jong-Nam, the exiled half-brother of the Norther Korean leader.
The claim has been vehemently denied by the North. Pyongyang has also denounced Malaysia’s investigation as an attempt to smear the secretive regime.
North Korea also insisted that the man died of a heart attack and that the body should be handed over to them. On the other hand, Malaysia kept waiting for weeks for his next of kin to claim the body.
Kuala Lumpur airport CCTV footage showed two women approaching the 45-year-old victim and apparently smearing his face with a piece of cloth.
The two women – one Vietnamese and one Indonesian – have been arrested and charged with the murder.
Malaysian investigators are also seeking seven North Korean suspects, four of whom left Malaysia on the day of the murder. Malaysia’s police chief has said he believes they fled to Pyongyang while the other three are hiding in North Korea’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
(With inputs from agencies)