Beijing mum on Kim Jong Nam's death in Kuala Lumpur

A man watching a TV show about the alleged assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, at a home in Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do, South Korea, on Feb 14, 2017.
A man watching a TV show about the alleged assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, at a home in Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do, South Korea, on Feb 14, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING • China is likely to keep a distance from the mysterious death of Mr Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. This would help Beijing avoid further complications in its relations with the unpredictable North, the South China Morning Post said, quoting diplomatic sources and Chinese observers.

Mr Kim Jong Nam died after he was attacked by two women in a crowded Kuala Lumpur airport last Monday. While investigations are ongoing, South Korea has said from the start that Pyongyang was behind the killing.

Even if the North Korean leader is linked to the death, China is unlikely to comment on it, as any accusations would drive the reclusive state further into isolation, the Post reported, quoting the observers.

Rather, China is more concerned about the development of Pyongyang's nuclear missile programme.

In an editorial yesterday, the Communist Party-linked Global Times said: "Chinese sanctions only target at its (North Korea's) nuclear weapon programme, and we are firmly opposed to Seoul's political fantasy against Pyongyang."

Last Sunday, North Korea launched a ballistic missile, a new form of high-thrust solid fuel-powered intermediate-range ballistic missile that Pyongyang claims can carry a nuclear warhead.

 

A diplomatic source said that China preferred to exercise prudence when it comes to North Korean matters, the Post reported.

When asked about the killing last Wednesday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman would only say that Beijing was monitoring developments closely.

China is North Korea's last major ally and it has a vested interest in stability in the North. Complete isolation of the reclusive country could spark a crisis that could send millions of refugees flooding across their shared border, according to the Financial Times.

Also at play is the strategic issue of using North Korea as a buffer to keep the United States away from their border. In its editorial yesterday, the Global Times further affirmed China's friendship with North Korea: "Despite participating in (United Nations) sanctions, Chinese society's friendship to the North remains unchanged."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2017, with the headline 'Beijing mum on Kim's death in KL'. Print Edition | Subscribe