SEOUL (REUTERS, AFP) - North Korea said on Thursday (Feb 23) that Malaysia is to blame for the death of Kim Jong Nan and accused the Malaysian government of demonstrating "unfriendly attitude" under a scenario drawn up by South Korea.
The embassy in KL has repeatedly accused Malaysia of conspiring with its enemies to pin the blame for the murder of Kim, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on Pyongyang.
This has led to strongly worded exchanges and the recall of Malaysia's ambassador from the secretive North-east Asian country.
In the latest salvo from the North, Pyongyang’s state-run KCNA news agency said Malaysia had initially informed the North that "a citizen of the DPRK (North Korea) bearing a diplomatic passport suddenly fell into a state of shock before boarding an airliner and died on the way to a hospital in Malaysia on February 13".
Citing a spokesman for the Korean Jurists Commitee, a legal body affiliated with North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament, KCNA said Malaysia quickly changed its position and started to complicate the matter after reports surfaced in South Korea that the man was poisoned to death.
“What merits more serous 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.
KCNA, in the first official media report of the killing, did not name the person who died on the way to the hospital or acknowledge that he was Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, referring to him only as “a citizen of the DPRK”.
“The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia as the citizen of the DPRK died in its land,” the report said.
It also blasted Malaysia for an “illegal and immoral” autopsy on Kim Jong Nam.
“Malaysia is obliged to hand his body to the DPRK (North Korea) side as it made an autopsy and forensic examination of it in an illegal and immoral manner”, the North’s Korean Jurists Commitee said in comments carried by KCNA.
On Wednesday, Malaysian police named a North Korean diplomat along with a state airline official who are wanted for questioning over the murder of Kim Jong Nam, 46.
Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said both officials were in Malaysia but could not confirm if they were in the North Korean embassy. So far, police have identified a total of eight North Koreans suspected of being linked to the killing. One is in custody.
Malaysia has denied North Korea’s request for the body to be handed over to its embassy directly, saying it would be released to the next of kin, although none has come forward.
The KCNA report accused Malaysia of breaking international law by conducting autopsies on a person bearing a diplomatic passport.
The North Korean Embassy has also hit back. It questioned claims that a poison had been used to kill Mr Kim Jong Nam, who collapsed after two women rubbed a substance on his face at KL International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on Feb 13.
The embassy also asked for the release of all suspects, including the "innocent females".
Police said the women knew they were using a toxin. They also added that they would "compel" the diplomat, who was avoiding them, to come in for an interview.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters on Wednesday that Mr Hyon Kwang Song, 44, the second secretary at the embassy, and Mr Kim Uk Il, 37, who works for North Korean airline Air Koryo, were being sought to aid investigations into the attack on Mr Kim.
"We hope the North Korean Embassy will cooperate. If not, we will compel them to come. We will issue a warrant of arrest," Tan Sri Khalid said. The men were still in Malaysia, he added, and the embassy has been uncooperative throughout the case.
It is unclear if the police will be able to question Mr Hyon, as he enjoys diplomatic immunity. Given the tension between the two countries, it is unlikely Pyongyang will waive the immunity of the officer, who is not a suspect at this point. Still, it was the first time the police had flagged his name.
The embassy in KL has repeatedly accused Malaysia of conspiring with its enemies to pin the blame for the murder on Pyongyang. This has led to strongly worded exchanges and the recall of Malaysia's ambassador from the secretive North-east Asian country.