(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian authorities returned the body of the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday, in a deal that secured the release of nine Malaysian citizens held in Pyongyang after a drawn out diplomatic spat.
US and South Korean intelligence sources say North Korea masterminded the deadly attack on Kim Jong Nam last month using VX nerve agent, a chemical so toxic that it is on a U.N. list of weapons of mass destruction.
The attack outraged Malaysia and sparked a diplomatic row with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as North Korea is officially known, resulting in travel bans on both sides and a collapse in their long-standing friendly ties.
The nine Malaysians who were barred from leaving North Korea arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport early on Friday, where they were received by the foreign minister and large group of media who had waited overnight.
"We won't deny that when the DPRK government imposed the travel ban which prevented (us) from leaving, we were very concerned especially since we had committed no wrong," said Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain, a counselor at the Malaysian embassy in the North Korean capital.
"During that time we were not particularly harassed by DPRK authorities. We were given the assurance that life could go on as normal," he added.
The Malaysians left Pyongyang on a Bombardier Global 6000 business jet operated by the Royal Malaysian Air Force.