While Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak took a strong stance upon hearing that North Korea had banned Malaysians from leaving the communist enclave, he later softened his stance.
Is this softening an indication that Najib blinked first in the game of chicken in the year of the rooster?
Yesterday, South China Morning Post asked which country will blink first in this game of chicken, Malaysia or North Korea and immediately after the Malaysian PM softened his tone towards Pyongyang, saying diplomatic relations remained between the two countries.
Remember that since the explosion of events following the death of Kim Jong-nam at the KLIA2 airport in Malaysia, a downward spiral has set in between the two nations that were once very friendly.
But North Korea played fair as it allowed two Malaysians to leave the country despite the ban, while Malaysia is still playing hard-ball moping-up what it says are illegal North Korean workers in the state of Sarawak.
Yesterday, Najib reiterated what North Korea said in its statement when it announced the ban for Malaysians to leave the country.
That is the 11 Malaysians in North Korea are safe and can go about their daily activities.
Najib added that Malaysia would not sever ties with North Korea as it was important to keep the channel of communication open.
“At the moment it’s (bilateral ties between the countries) still on because it provides us with a channel. Because you need to have a channel to talk to them, to negotiate with them.
“In the meantime, we need to examine what is the need of the North Korean government. That is what we have to be sure of.
Najib said the authorities were still waiting for the body to be identified as no one has come forward to provide a DNA sample or identify the body.
The two women accused of the killing, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong and Indonesian Siti Aisyah have been charged with the murder.
Neither recorded a plea, and April 13 has been set for mention.
North Korea has criticised Malaysia’s handling of the case and on Tuesday announced its decision to temporarily ban Malaysians in North Korea from leaving the country.
A few hours after Pyongyang’s announcement, Najib announced that all North Koreans in Malaysia would not be allowed to leave the country.
Photo Credit: Musyrif Zayyan showing local and foreign media camping at the North Korean Embassy in KL