High-level North Korean team in Kuala Lumpur to seek release of Kim Jong Nam's body and North Korean suspect

Mr Ri Tong Il (left) speaking to the media at the North Korean Embassy.
Mr Ri Tong Il (left) speaking to the media at the North Korean Embassy. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - A high-level North Korean delegation is in Kuala Lumpur to seek the release of the body of Kim Jong Nam and a North Korean man arrested for the murder.

The delegation includes Ri Tong Il, former North Korean deputy ambassador to the United Nations.

Ri told reporters outside the North Korean embassy on Tuesday (Feb 28) that the team will also discuss the development of friendly relations between North Korea and Malaysia with local authorities.

Pyongyang has denied the dead man is the estranged half-brother of its supreme leader Kim Jong Un, insisting that he is a North Korean citizen travelling on a diplomatic passport with the name Kim Chol.

The case has resulted in a diplomatic spat between North Korea and Malaysia. Pyongyang opposes an autopsy conducted by Malaysian authorities, while Kuala Lumpur has refused to hand over the body till it receives DNA samples from the next of kin.

The victim was attacked on Feb 13 at Kuala Lumpur’s budget terminal airport while waiting for his flight to Macau. Closed-circuit TV footage showed two women approaching him and wiping his face with a liquid. He was taken to the airport clinic where he collapsed. He died on the way to hospital.

 

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Authorities identified the substance as a chemical weapon known as VX, the most potent nerve agent and considered a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.

The North Korean embassy however insisted the cause of death of the man was “heart stroke”.

Malaysian police arrested North Korean Ri Jong Chol, who was in Kuala Lumpur on a work visa.  They also arrested  Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong and Indonesian Siti Aisyah. The two women had insisted they were participating in a “prank” for a reality TV show.

Police had also identified another seven North Koreans who may be linked to the case. They include a diplomat with the North Korean embassy and four men believed to have left the country on the same day as the attack.

Police said they may issue an arrest warrant for the diplomat if he does not cooperate, but it is unclear if they can do so given that he has diplomatic immunity.