North Korea's response to Malaysia's probe of Kim Jong Nam case outrageous: The Korea Herald

North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia, Mr Kang Chol, addressing journalists outside the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 20, 2017.
North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia, Mr Kang Chol, addressing journalists outside the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 20, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial on Feb 22, the paper dismisses Pyongyang's claims that the investigation of Kim Jong Nam's murder was politically motivated, and urges Malaysia to proceed with the probe despite the risk of souring its relations with North Korea.

It is nothing new for North Korea to tell bold lies after committing vile terrorist acts.

Many still remember how the country behaved after committing mass killings such as a bomb attack on a South Korean presidential entourage in Myanmar in 1983 and the midair explosion of a South Korean passenger plane in 1987.

Nevertheless, its response to the killing of Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia is outrageous.

As usual, North Korea's media is keeping mum on the assassination of the half brother of its ruler Kim Jong Un.

However, with evidence building up on North Koreans' involvement in the killing, the country is turning to its typical response of denial and throwing out nonsensical claims.

North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol, is working as Pyongyang's point man for the campaign of deception and irrational claims.

Kang said last week that North Korea will not accept the result of the autopsy conducted by Malaysian authorities because it had been done without the presence of North Korean officials. Kim was killed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport by what is believed to be a poisonous liquid sprayed on his face by a Vietnamese woman and an Indonesian woman. Kang also demanded that Malaysia hand over his body to the embassy.

Malaysian authorities rightfully rejected the demands and announced initially that five North Koreans, including one who had been a registered foreign resident in the country, were involved in the attack. The four of them had entered Malaysia separately and fled on the day of the attack through the same airport. Malaysian police said they believed all four had returned to Pyongyang via third countries.

Such developments prompted Kang to argue that the investigation by the Malaysian police was "politically motivated" and he could not trust it. The ambassador demanded a joint investigation of the case with the North Korean government. This is an example of North's usual tactic of shunning responsibility and shifting the blame to others.

So far, it seems the Malaysian government is dealing with the case properly. On Wednesday, Malaysian police identified two more North Korean suspects - one a second secretary in the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and the other an official of the North's national flag carrier Air Koryo. This adds to the suspicion that the North Korean government was behind the premeditated killing.

Malaysia's Foreign Ministry also did well to call in Ambassador Kang after he disputed actions taken by the Malaysian authorities. It also recalled its Malaysian ambassador from North Korea, a sign that Kuala Lumpur will deal sternly with the case.

Prime Minister Najib Razak made it clear that his government would not be swayed by the North's "bullying and pressure." He said the probe was being conducted in an objective manner and that Malaysia does not have any reason to intentionally "paint the North Koreans in a bad light." Najib also urged North Korea to cooperate with the investigation.

Malaysia's police chief said at a news conference Wednesday that they had asked the North Korean Embassy to allow them to interview the second secretary and the Air Koryo staff - both of whom are believed to be staying in the country - and provide DNA samples from Kim's family members.

But securing such cooperation from the North Korean Embassy will not be easy, considering what the country has done in the past.

The 1983 bombing in Myanmar is a good example: North Korea denied it masterminded the attack that targeted then South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan and Myanmar cut off diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

Malaysia may run the same risks of its relations with the North turning icy, but it should do what it has to do as a responsible member of the international community. South Korea and other countries will stand behind such efforts.

The Korea Herald is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 news media entities.