Interpol asked to help nab North Koreans

WANTED MEN Malaysia is seeking four North Koreans who fled the country on the day of Mr Kim Jong Nam's alleged assassination at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2. Here are CCTV footage and passport-style photographs of the four suspects. Hong Song
Members of Umno's youth wing holding a rally outside the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, protesting against Pyongyang's allegations that Malaysia is mishandling its investigation.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Diplomatic spat over Malaysia's investigation as KL seeks access to embassy staff member

Malaysia has asked Interpol to put out an alert for four North Koreans who fled the country the day Mr Kim Jong Nam was allegedly assassinated, amid fresh criticism from Pyongyang over Kuala Lumpur's handling of the investigation.

The diplomatic spat has already led Malaysia to recall its ambassador from Pyongyang. There are unconfirmed reports that it is mulling over the expulsion of North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol, who has repeatedly accused Kuala Lumpur of conspiring against Pyongyang.

Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters yesterday that police have asked Interpol to help nab the four men, who are believed to have returned to North Korea following the Feb 13 attack at Kuala Lumpur's airport.

He said the police have also sought the North Korean Embassy's assistance to interview two other North Koreans, one of whom is an airline employee and the other a senior diplomat based in Kuala Lumpur.

"If you have nothing to hide, you don't have to be afraid. You should cooperate," Tan Sri Khalid said.

  • WANTED MEN

  • Malaysia is seeking four North Koreans who fled the country on the day of Mr Kim Jong Nam's alleged assassination at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2. Here are CCTV footage and passport-style photographs of the four suspects.

  • Hong Song Hac, 34

  • Ri Ji Hyon, 33

  • O Jong Gil, 55

  • Ri Jae Nam, 57

  • PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/ROYAL MALAYSIAN POLICE

 

But he conceded that while police could issue an arrest warrant for Air Koryo employee Kim Uk Il, they could not do the same for Second Secretary Hyon Kwang Song, who has diplomatic immunity.

The police chief said on Wednesday that the embassy was not being cooperative. Instead, Mr Kang has accused Malaysia of "grave human rights abuses" and of conspiring with South Korea to distort the investigation. Seoul and Washington believe the death of Mr Kim, whose half-brother is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was an assassination carried out by North Korean agents.

Mr Kang has insisted that the dead man is a diplomatic passport holder named Kim Chol.

He maintains that Kuala Lumpur, which conducted an autopsy despite Pyongyang refusing consent, is now withholding the body illegally by asking for DNA samples from the next of kin to be presented first.

"The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia," the North Korean government said yesterday, according to its state media. It also said an autopsy was unnecessary as the cause of death was "a heart stroke".

"The Malaysian side is going to politicise the transfer of the body in utter disregard of international law and morality and thus attain a sinister purpose," the statement said.

Malaysian officials hit back at the allegations yesterday. The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition's youth wing demonstrated in front of the North Korean Embassy and urged their government to review ties.

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the ambassador had "crossed the line" and Culture and Tourism Minister Nazri Aziz said Malaysians should not travel to what he called the "rogue state".

Reuters news agency, citing a government source, said Malaysia is considering expelling Mr Kang. But Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told The Straits Times that the row has not "come to that stage".

Deputy police chief Noor Rashid said yesterday he is expecting Mr Kim's next of kin in "the next one or two days" to help identify the body.

• Additional reporting by Trinna Leong

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2017, with the headline 'Interpol asked to help nab N. Koreans'. Print Edition | Subscribe