Najib: Malaysia will not cut diplomatic ties with N Korea

This was part of a deal to end a diplomatic standoff between the two countries.

The trio had been wanted for questioning in connection with the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, Kim Jong Nam.

"From the time negotiations began with North Korea, I made it very clear to our negotiators on two issues - that our nine hostages must come back safely, and that the sovereignty of Malaysia can not be questioned by any quarter".

He said police would continue to press for the surrender of four North Korean suspects who left Malaysia on the day of the murder.

Kim Jong-nam, who had been living in exile in the Chinese territory of Macau for several years, survived an attempt on his life in 2012, according to South Korean politicians. On March 7, North Korea prohibited Malaysians in that country from leaving North Korea and Malaysia also took similar action against North Koreans in this country.

"They have clarified themselves and we are done with them".

Asked whether he had at any time contacted the top North Korean leadership over the crisis, Mr Najib said he had only been in touch with the Malaysian hostages and the others involved, reported the Star. "We have allowed them to go".

South Korea has repeatedly referred to the assassination as a clear example of the North Korean leadership's brutality and recklessness.

Kim Jong-nam was killed with the lethal nerve agent VX on February 13 in a Kuala Lumpur airport, in a brutally clinical operation which removed a potential claimant to the Kim throne - he was late leader Kim Jong-il's first-born - who was an embarrassment to Pyongyang.

He also dismissed any notion that criminal investigations were compromised because of the negotiations with North Korea.

Angered by the probe, North Korea issued a travel ban on Malaysians earlier this month, trapping three diplomats and six family members - including four children - in Pyongyang.

Malaysian police had named eight North Koreans they wanted to question in the case, including the three who were given safe passage to leave Malaysia on Thursday evening.

However, Malaysian police used a DNA sample to establish the victim was Kim Jong-nam.

The pilot, Lieutenant-Colonel Hasrizan Kamis, had flown missions into risky countries such as Libya, but the Star reported him saying he only started breathing easy after leaving North Korean airspace. His body was flown out Thursday to Beijing on its way to Pyongyang.

The episode, however, is likely to have cost North Korea one of its few friends.

Mr Khalid said he is "sure they know very well" who the man really is.

  • Leroy Wright