Kuala Lumpur, March 30 (IANS) The Malaysian government on Thursday struck a deal with North Korea for the return of nine of its citizens previously barred from leaving Pyongyang, in exchange for the body of Kim Jong-nam, the slain half-brother of North Koreas leader.
Kim Jong-nam was assassinated at Kuala Lumpur Airport last month with a lethal nerve agent banned by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that nine Malaysians, three diplomats and their six family members, were expected to return on Friday, the Malay Mail Online reported.
"Many challenges were overcome to ensure the return of our fellow Malaysians. The safety and security of our citizens will always be my first priority," Najib, who is on a five-day working visit to India, said in a statement.
He said: "In addition, following the completion of the autopsy on the deceased and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea, the coroner has approved the release of the body."
The body will be returned to the family in North Korea, KCNA news agency said, adding that both countries would lift reciprocal bans on travel by citizens and guarantee their safety.
Kim's body was believed to be on Malaysia Airlines flight MH360 to Beijing, en route to North Korea.
The Malaysians left Pyongyang in a Royal Malaysian Air Force business jet, which headed immediately west out of North Korean airspace before turning south towards Malaysia, according to flight tracking website planefinder.net.
The agreement was reached after recent talks between the two countries in Kuala Lumpur, Najib's statement added.
A statement by the North Korean government released simultaneously said both countries managed to "resolve issues arising from the death of a North Korea national" in Malaysia at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur.