Malaysia will charge two foreign women today with the murder of Mr Kim Jong Nam, even as a high-level delegation arrived from Pyongyang to seek the release of a North Korean suspect and the body of the dead man, who it insists was not the estranged half-brother of supreme leader Kim Jong Un.
Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 29, and Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, were arrested two days after allegedly smearing poison on Mr Kim's face just before he was to board a Feb 13 flight to Macau. They insisted that they were recruited to play a "prank" for a reality TV show.
"Murder, under Section 302 of the Penal Code," Attorney-General Apandi Ali told The Straits Times in a text message yesterday.
They will be charged in the Sepang magistrate's court, near Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2, where Mr Kim was attacked before dying on the way to hospital.
South Korea and the United States claim that Mr Kim was assassinated by North Korean agents. However, Pyongyang claims the dead man was a North Korean travelling on a diplomatic passport by the name of Kim Chol, and accuses Malaysia of subverting investigations in a political conspiracy with its enemies.
Kuala Lumpur has denied the allegation and recalled its ambassador to North Korea in the escalating diplomatic spat.
Malaysian police are also seeking seven other North Koreans, four of whom are suspects believed to have fled to Pyongyang. A senior diplomat at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur is also being sought to aid in investigations.
A North Korean delegation arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday led by former ambassador to the United Nations Ri Tong Il, who told reporters the team would hold discussions with Malaysian officials. "Number one, the question of the return of the body... Number two, the question of the release of the citizen arrested," he said.
However, police chief Khalid Abu Bakar reiterated yesterday that only the next-of-kin could claim the body, which is being kept at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
The next-of-kin would have to subject themselves to a DNA test and confirmation prior to collecting the body at the National Institute of Forensic Medicine at the hospital, Bernama quoted him as saying.
Tan Sri Apandi said investigations into the North Korean, Mr Ri Jong Chol, who has been in Kuala Lumpur since 2013, have yet to be completed. He is under remand until Saturday and must be released if a charge is not offered by Friday.
The authorities have identified the toxin used as VX, the most potent known nerve agent and considered a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.
North Korea is not one of the 192 UN members party to a chemical weapons convention banning the use of VX, a substance so lethal that skin contact with a 10mg drop can be fatal.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday that Malaysia will not share with international bodies information on the investigation into the murder until the entire legal process has been completed.