KUALA LUMPUR: Deputy Foreign Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican today said the government did not involve any third party in its negotiations with North Korea over nine Malaysians trapped in Pyongyang.
He said Malaysia opted for a pragmatic direct approach to resolve the recent diplomatic crisis because it was confident it could be resolved amicably.
“When the crisis erupted, we did not see the need to use third parties, but instead opted for direct negotiations.
“However, I wish to inform, because of our pragmatic attitude, many countries including from Asean helped in the matter,” he said in the Dewan Negara.
He also said the foreign missions of Indonesia, Pakistan and the European Union (EU) rendered assistance to the affected Malaysians to cater to their needs.
“This is the advantage when we are pragmatic in diplomatic relations. We placed importance on ensuring the safety of the Malaysians and that they were brought home safely.”
He was replying to a supplementary question from Senator S Nallakarupan who wanted to know why Malaysia did not use a middleman in its negotiations to bring home the nine who were barred from leaving North Korea.
The crisis erupted following the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the elder half-brother of North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb 13.
Jong Nam was waiting to board a flight to Macau when two women suddenly approached him and wiped his face with a liquid later identified as the lethal nerve agent VX.
He died while being rushed to the Putrajaya Hospital. Two women, an Indonesian and a Vietnamese, have since been charged with the murder.
The tensions saw both countries expelling each other’s ambassador and preventing citizens from the other country from leaving.
The nine Malaysians in Pyongyang returned home on March 31.
Jong Nam’s body was also repatriated to North Korea the same day, accompanied by three North Korean nationals who had been holed up at the North Korean embassy here.
On why Malaysia did not break off diplomatic relations with North Korea, Reezal said the government decided to continue its ties with Pyongyang in view of the longstanding relations spanning four decades.
On April 16, Prime Minister Najib Razak said at an event in Besut that Malaysia had earned Jong Un’s respect after successfully solving the diplomatic crisis.