North Korea blames Malaysia for death of Kim Jong-nam

Malaysian police suspect eight North Koreans of killing Kim Jong-un’s half-brother

Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, was murdered in Kuala Lumpur airport. Photograph: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP

Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, was murdered in Kuala Lumpur airport. Photograph: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP

 

North Korea has blamed the Malaysian government for the death of leader Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother and accused its bitter rivals South Korea of generating a conspiracy over the killing.

Malaysian police suspect eight North Koreans of involvement in the killing of Kim Jong-nam, who died on February 13th at Kuala Lumpur airport after two women wiped an unidentified toxic substance on his face as he awaited a flight back to Macau.

In the first official media report, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) accused Malaysia of demonstrating an “unfriendly attitude” and said the investigation was full of “holes and contradictions”.

The report cited the Korean Jurists Committee, a legal body linked to North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament.

It said Malaysian authorities had initially told North Korea that a person bearing a diplomatic passport had died after a heart attack but changed its story after South Korean reports that the man had been poisoned.

“What merits more serious attention is the fact that the unjust acts of the Malaysian side are timed to coincide with the anti-DPRK conspiratorial racket launched by the South Korean authorities,” KCNA said, accusing Seoul of “working out a scenario” for the case.

DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Chinese-language newspapers in Malaysia reported that Malaysian police were sending three officers to Macau, where Kim Jong-nam had been living for several years, apparently under Chinese protection, to gather DNA samples from his 22-year-old Kim Han-sol.

Specially trained

Malaysian police believe two women suspected of fatally poisoning Kim Jong-nam, one Vietnamese and the other Indonesian, were specially trained to coat their hands with toxic chemicals and then wipe them on his face.

Toxicologists remain puzzled as to how the poison could work so fast and also how the women, who did not appear to be wearing gloves, could survive if they had deadly toxins on their hands. The North Koreans have called for the release of the two “innocent women”.

The KCNA report did not acknowledge that Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of the late former leader Kim Jong-il, was the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong-un, nor mention his name.

Malaysian police say four of the North Korean suspects fled the country on the day of his death and have already returned to Pyongyang.

They have arrested Ri Jong-chol (46) and are looking for three others thought to be still at large in Malaysia, including Hyon Kwang-song, (44), a second secretary at the North Korean embassy, and Kim Uk-il (37), who works for national flag carrier Air Koryo.

Pyongyang condemned Malaysia for not handing over his body to North Korea and of pressing ahead with an “illegal and immoral” autopsy, which infringed on North Korea’s sovereignty and was a human rights violation.

“The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia as the citizen of the DPRK died in its land,” the KCNA report said.

As the elder son, Kim Jong-nam would have been next in line to assume control of the dynastic regime, but he apparently fell out of favour with his father Kim Jong-il for attempting to enter Japan with a fake passport in 2001.

The statements from North Korea are sure to intensify an already simmering row between Pyongyang and one of its few remaining regional allies.

North Korea’s top envoy to Malaysia, Kang Chol, has claimed Malaysia colluded with Seoul in investigating the case, prompting Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak to describe his remarks as “diplomatically rude”.

A senior government official said Malaysia was considering expelling Mr Kang or shutting its embassy in Pyongyang, as tensions escalate.

In the latest sign of North Korea’s growing isolation, Pyongyang condemned ally China’s decision to halt imports of North Korean coal and of Beijing’s criticism of a new ballistic missile launch.

KCNA said a country which had often claimed to be a “friendly neighbour” was showing an unkind attitude towards North Korea, apparently referring to China.