Kim Jong Nam murder: Malaysia hits back at Pyongyang's criticism over probe, recalls ambassador

The death in Malaysia of Kim Jong Nam, the man believed to be North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, has sparked tensions between the two countries.
North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol addresses the media in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 18, 2017.
North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol addresses the media in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 18, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia on Monday (Feb 20) defended its handling of the probe into Mr Kim Jong Nam's murder and slammed Pyongyang for accusing the country of "colluding with external forces", amid an escalating spat over the alleged assassination of the half-brother of North Korea's leader.

Malaysia had announced earlier Monday it had recalled its ambassador to Pyongyang and summoned North Korea's envoy, while Pyongyang has demanded joint investigation citing distrust of Malaysia.

Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters Malaysia's police and doctors will be professional and objective in the investigation.

"I have absolute confidence that they are very objective in what they do. We have no reason to do something that would paint the North Koreans in a bad light," said Mr Najib.

"But we will be objective and we expect them to understand that we apply the rule of law in Malaysia." 

North Korean ambassador Kang Chol  had demanded earlier Monday that North Korea be allowed to join the probe into the death of its citizen. He has accused Malaysia of "colluding and playing into the gallery of external forces", after authorities conducted an autopsy against Pyongyang's wishes, and refused to hand over Mr Kim's body even though he held a diplomatic passport.

In a statement released late on Monday, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Haji Aman slammed the North Korean allegations.

"These allegations, culled from delusions, lies and half-truths, are the basis from which the Ambassador concluded that 'there could be someone else’s hand behind the investigation'."

He said Mr Kang was told earlier on Monday by the ministry that the police investigation was being conducted "impartially without fear or favour", and in compliance with Malaysian laws and regulations.
 
"Any suggestion to the contrary is deeply insulting to Malaysia, as is the suggestion that Malaysia is in collusion with any foreign government," Datuk Seri Anifah said in the statement.
 
He added: "In all civilised nations, it is the norm for cases such as these to be comprehensively investigated....it is also customary for embassies to cooperate fully with the host government in order to ensure that the investigation is as thorough as possible, and not to impugn the credibility of the investigation."

 

The 45-year-old eldest son of former North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Il died after an attack by two women at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) just before he was about to board a flight to Macau last Monday.

Authorities have nabbed the two female suspects, a Malaysian man and a North Korean man, Ri Jong Chol, who is based in Kuala Lumpur and whose migrant identification expired a week before the attack. 

Speaking to reporters outside the North Korean embassy on Monday, Mr Kang denied the deceased was Mr Kim, calling the claim "completely baseless". He said the person killed was known as Mr Kim Chol, as stated in his passport, and "not any other name".  

"This incident is politicised by Malaysia in collusion with South Korea," he said.

“It has been seven days since the incident, but there is no clear evidence on the cause of death and at the moment we cannot trust the investigation by the Malaysian police,” he added.

Malaysian police have insisted they will only release Mr Kim's body to the next-of-kin, and have given his relatives two weeks to claim it.  

Mr Kang also accused Malaysian police on Monday of pointing guns at Ri's family to "threaten their lives" and beat "his teenage son in the face". 

Another four North Korean suspects fled on the day of the murder, and are believed to have returned to Pyongyang.

The number of North Korean suspects has led South Korea to assert that President Kim Jong Un's government ordered the assassination of his estranged sibling.

shannont@sph.com.sg