Malaysia is to deport about 50 North Korean nationals, weeks after Kim Jong Un‘s older half-brother was assassinated at a Kuala Lumpur airport and a diplomatic row caused both countries to rethink friendly ties.
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Tuesday the North Koreans who are to be deported have stayed in the country on expired visas and will be asked to leave as soon as possible, Singapore’s The Straits Times reported.
“We will send the North Korean workers who are in Sarawak, who have exceeded their visa period, back to Pyongyang. Those with valid visas, however, can stay,” the Malaysian official said.
According to the Singaporean newspaper, there are 315 North Koreans in Malaysia. In addition, a total of 191 North Koreans may be in the country as semi-permanent residents under the “Malaysia My Second Home” program.
But the BBC, quoting Malaysian authorities, reported there are about 1,000 North Koreans in Malaysia.
Malaysia has also banned some North Koreans, including those inside Pyongyang’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur, from leaving the country.
Friction escalated as North Korea condemned Malaysia for not releasing Kim Jong Nam‘s body and turning down Pyongyang’s offer to co-investigate the case.
North Korea recently criticized Malaysia’s investigation and charged Kuala Lumpur of taking part in a vast conspiracy against the Kim Jong Un regime.
Malaysian nationals also continue to be detained in the country.
Two Malaysian nationals who were in North Korea to work for the United Nations’ World Food Program were allowed to leave the country, but others may still be in North Korea custody.