N.Korea, Malaysia ban each other's citizens from leaving

A North Korean embassy staffer asks if they are allowed to leave as police cordon off the embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Tuesday. Malaysia banned North Koreans from leaving after Pyongyang prohibited Malaysians from leaving North Korea.(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

KUALA LUMPUR -- North Korea Tuesday banned Malaysians from leaving the country as its bitter diplomatic battle with Malaysia escalated dramatically over the fatal poisoning of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader's estranged half-brother.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the travel ban was tantamount to hostage-taking and immediately responded in kind, banning North Koreans from leaving Malaysia.

"This abhorrent act, effectively holding our citizens hostage, is in total disregard of all international law and diplomatic norms,'' Najib said.

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