SEPANG, March 31 2017 (Bernama) - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak fulfilled his promise to bring home the nine Malaysian citizens barred from leaving North Korea, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.
He said that at the beginning of this unfortunate episode, the prime minister had promised this to the embassy staff and their families who were understandably worried about their safety in Pyongyang.
He noted that PM also promised that the Malaysian government would do all it could to bring them back and would expend every resource and effort to ensure their safety and well-being.
"The Prime Minister was involved directly and had followed closely every step of the way of the negotiations that have brought to the release of the nine Malaysians.
"Today, that promise has been fulfilled," he told a press conference after receiving the nine Malaysians at the Bunga Raya Complex, KL International Airport (KLIA) here today.
Anifah also expressed his gratitude to the prime minister for his concern, guidance, leadership and, most importantly, his personal involvement.
"This success is a proof of what Malaysia can achieve if we all work together as a team... brought this episode to a happy conclusion," he said.
Anifah also thanked PM for placing his trust in Wisma Putra to lead the negotiations with North Korea.
In doing so, he said the prime minister placed his trust in diplomacy.
"Alhamdulillah, I am glad that we did not let him (PM) down, and that his trust in us was well placed. Certainly, this is diplomacy at its best.
"I have said that there can be no substitute for diplomacy, for level-headedness in dealing with such situations, and this has served Malaysia well in this instance," he said.
Anifah said the success in bringing home the nine Malaysians was a team effort.
"The success is not (by) Wisma Putra alone... this success would not have been possible without the cooperation of every single facet of the government machinery," he said.
Nine Malaysians, who are embassy staff and their family members, were prohibited from leaving North Korea since March 7 following the tension between Malaysia and North Korea in the aftermath of the murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, here last Feb 13.
The diplomatic spat erupted after North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol, made baseless allegations against Malaysia over the handling of the case, resulting in Malaysia declaring him persona non grata. The ambassador left Kuala Lumpur on March 6.
North Korea retaliated by expelling Malaysian Ambassador in Pyongyang. 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.