Two Malaysians leave North Korea, nine still stranded

A man who identified himself as Kim Han Sol speaks at an unknown location in a grab from an undated video posted on YouTube by a group called Cheollima Civil Defense. An official at South Korea's National Intelligence Service said the man in the video is the 21-year-old son of Kim Jong Nam, who was assassinated at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13 (Cheollima Civil Defense via YouTube/via Reuters TV)

KUALA LUMPUR - Two Malaysian UN employees were allowed to leave North Korea on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said, as the Malaysian government negotiated for a travel ban to be lifted on nine citizens still stranded there.

North Korea on Tuesday barred Malaysians from leaving, sparking tit-for-tat action by Malaysia as diplomatic tensions escalated over an investigation into the murder in Kuala Lumpur of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The nine remaining Malaysians are at the embassy in Pyongyang, unable to leave the country. Malaysia has begun negotiations with North Korea to lift the travel ban and allow its citizens to return home.

Meantime, the two Malaysian WFP employees had reached Beijing.

"WFP confirms that two WFP staff of Malaysian nationality have left DPR Korea and arrived in Beijing today," Frances Kennedy, spokeswoman at the WFP headquarters in Italy, told Reuters in a statement.

The United Nations has called for calm between Malaysia and North Korea and urged them to settle their differences through "established diplomatic practice."

Kim Jong Nam was killed on Feb. 13 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Malaysian police have charged two women with smearing his face with VX, a chemical classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.

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