Kim Jong Nam's body still in Malaysian custody

Kim Jong Nam arriving at Beijing airport in Beijing, China, in this photo taken by Kyodo, on Feb 11, 2007.
Kim Jong Nam arriving at Beijing airport in Beijing, China, in this photo taken by Kyodo, on Feb 11, 2007.PHOTO: REUTERS

The remains of Mr Kim Jong Nam are still in Malaysian custody, the government confirmed yesterday, as nothing emerged on the fate of the nine Malaysians barred from leaving North Korea for the past three weeks.

Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam told reporters that the next-of-kin of the murdered half- brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had yet to "provide any assistance" to determine the next destination of the body.

There was intense speculation early on Monday about a deal between Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur in which the nine Malaysians would be allowed to leave North Korea and Mr Kim's body would be sent to China.

Malaysia and North Korea are in a heated row following Mr Kim's killing in Kuala Lumpur.

The speculation was triggered by reports late on Sunday that Mr Kim's body had left the mortuary for a funeral parlour.

By late Monday, however, expectations were dampened as no official word on any deal materialised.

A van likely to be carrying Mr Kim's remains returned to the morgue late on Monday night, and security was beefed up again around the building.

A report by the local China Press daily yesterday claimed that three North Koreans - including a senior diplomat - wanted by police in connection with Mr Kim's murder would be allowed to leave Malaysia. All three have been holed up inside the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia has said an autopsy showed that Mr Kim was killed after he was exposed to the lethal nerve agent VX in Kuala Lumpur Airport 2 just as he was about to board a flight to Macau.

Two women - an Indonesian and a Vietnamese - are now in custody, accused of smearing the toxin on his face. Malaysian police said four North Korean suspects fled the country on the day of the attack.

North Korea has dismissed the Malaysian findings, insisting that the dead man was Mr Kim Chol, a citizen travelling on a diplomatic passport, and that the cause of death was a "heart stroke".

It has accused Malaysia of conspiring to tarnish its image, and a diplomatic row between the two countries has seen their ambassadors being recalled, Malaysians barred from leaving North Korea and a similar ban imposed on North Koreans in Malaysia.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2017, with the headline 'Kim Jong Nam's body still in Malaysian custody'. Print Edition | Subscribe