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North Korea allows 2 Malaysians to leave

Reuters KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) — North Korea guaranteed the safety of Malaysians banned from leaving the country, Malaysia’s prime minister said Thursday, as two Malaysian U.N. employees left the isolated state in a possible sign that diplomatic tensions had begun to settle.

North Korea had barred Malaysians from leaving the country on Tuesday, sparking tit-for-tat action by Malaysia as relations soured over its investigation into the murder last month of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

After earlier this week accusing North Korea of assassinating Kim Jong Nam with a banned chemical weapon and of treating Malaysians like hostages, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has taken a softer line to get his citizens out of the secretive, nuclear-armed state.

“Diplomatic relations between Malaysia and North Korea will not be severed, as we need to continue communicating with them to find a solution,” Najib said in a statement on his blog.

But, he added that his government “will not relent from a firm approach” in dealings with North Korea.

The departure of two Malaysians working for the U.N.’s World Food Programme meant nine still remained at the embassy in Pyongyang. They included three diplomats and six family members.

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