SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The bitter diplomatic dispute between North Korea and Malaysia over the poisoning death of leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother escalated dramatically Tuesday, with Pyongyang saying it had banned Malaysians from leaving North Korea. That was followed quickly by Malaysia saying North Korean embassy staff were barred from leaving its country. Malaysia had already expelled the North Korean ambassador on Monday. The North's Foreign Ministry told the Malaysian Embassy in Pyongyang that it would temporarily ban the exit of Malaysian citizens now in the North, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. It said the exit ban will be valid "until the safety of the diplomats and citizens of (North Korea) in Malaysia is fully guaranteed through the fair settlement of the case that occurred in Malaysia." Malaysia is pursuing several North Korean suspects allegedly involved in the killing, including a diplomat at the North's Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
A Malaysian official says the country is preventing North Korean diplomats from leaving because Pyongyang "manipulated" the murder case involving the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half brother. Malaysia banned North Korean Embassy officials and staff from leaving on Tuesday, soon after North Korea barred all Malaysians from exiting that country. Relations between the countries have been disintegrating since Kim Jong Nam was attacked with a nerve agent at a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal Feb. 13. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi says Malaysia did not want to retaliate but added, "When we are confronted with a country that has breached international diplomatic norms and ethics, we have no choice." He said Malaysia was forced to act because North Korea had "manipulated what we call a murder case."
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — U.S. missile launchers and other equipment needed to set up a controversial missile defense system have arrived in South Korea, the U.S. and South Korean militaries said Tuesday, a day after North Korea test-launched four ballistic missiles into the ocean near Japan. The plans to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, within this year have angered not only North Korea, but also China and Russia, which see the system's powerful radars as a security threat. Washington and Seoul say the system is defensive and not meant to be a threat to Beijing or Moscow.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Monday fired four banned ballistic missiles that flew about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) on average, with three of them landing in waters that Japan claims as its exclusive economic zone, South Korean and Japanese officials said. The test-launches appeared to be a reaction to huge U.S.-South Korean military drills that those countries consider routine but that Pyongyang insists are an invasion rehearsal. It was not immediately clear the exact type of missile fired, but the tests will be viewed as a provocation by the Trump administration, which is working on its policy for North Korea.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea warned Monday that U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which it called "the most undisguised nuclear war maneuvers," are driving the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia toward "nuclear disaster." The North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, Ja Song Nam, said in a letter to the U.N. Security Council that the U.S. is using nuclear-propelled aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, nuclear strategic bombers and stealth fighters in the joint exercises that began Wednesday. "It may go over to an actual war," Ja warned of the military drills, "and, consequently, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is again inching to the brink of a nuclear war." The letter was sent a few hours after North Korea fired four banned ballistic missiles, in apparent reaction to the U.S.-South Korean exercises.
BEIJING (AP) — China's announcement of a 7 percent rise in military spending for the year came shortly after President Donald Trump called for a 10 percent increase in America's defense budget, prompting renewed scrutiny of how the two countries' capabilities compare. While the U.S. military remains the dominant force in Asia and the world, China has been moving from quantity to quality and is catching up quickly in equipment, organization and capability, and is increasingly able to project power far from its shores. Rapid economic growth, lavish spending and a desire to regain China's historical role as East Asia's leading power are helping drive the moves.
TOKYO (AP) — A survey by the anti-graft group Transparency International shows that bribery and other forms of corruption are hindering poverty alleviation and hurting public health in Asia by channeling resources away from those who need them. The survey, released Tuesday, estimated that more than 900 million people in the region had paid bribes in the past year to obtain basic public services like schooling and health care. Nearly seven in 10 Indians surveyed had paid such bribes. The heavy reliance of cash payments in corruption was a major factor driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision in October to scrap as legal tender the 500- and 1,000-rupee notes that made up 86 percent of the country's currency.
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A lawyer for one of the women accused of poisoning the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader says there are serious holes in the case. In an interview published Sunday by Vietnam's state-run online newspaper Zing, attorney Selvam Shanmugam, who represents Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, said allegations that the North Korean man had existing health problems should be cause for a new autopsy. Kim Yong Nam was fatally poisoned at Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13, and so far Doan Thi Huong and an Indonesian woman have been charged with murder. Malaysian authorities say the toxic VX nerve agent was used in the attack.
SYDNEY (AP) — A British backpacker was sexually assaulted and held captive for weeks in the Australian Outback before being rescued by police who pulled over the car she was driving during a routine traffic stop, officials said Tuesday. Queensland state police officers noticed the 22-year-old woman had facial injuries and appeared distressed when they stopped the four-wheel drive along a highway in the rural town of Mitchell on Sunday. The officers then found a 22-year-old man hiding in a storage alcove in the back of the vehicle, police said. Police say the two had met three months earlier in the northeast city of Cairns, where the man lived.
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has condemned North Korea for firing four banned ballistic missiles and said it would consult with Japan and international partners on how to react. Officials say the North Korean missiles were fired early Monday with three landing in waters that Japan claims as its exclusive economic zone. The test-launches appeared to be a reaction to huge U.S.-South Korean military drills that those countries consider routine but that Pyongyang insists are an invasion rehearsal. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said launches were "in utter disregard" of several U.N. resolutions and further raised tension in the region.