North Korean suspect in Kim Jong Nam's murder is son of ex-envoy to Vietnam: Report

Handout photo released by the Royal Malaysian Police in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 19, 2017, of Ri Ji Hyon of North Korea.
Handout photo released by the Royal Malaysian Police in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 19, 2017, of Ri Ji Hyon of North Korea.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA/HANOI - A North Korean suspect in the killing of Kim Jong Nam is reportedly the son of a former top North Korean envoy to Vietnam and he allegedly lured a Vietnamese female suspect to join the plot to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader.

Ri Ji Hyon, 33, is the son of former North Korean ambassador to Hanoi, Ri Hong, and had lived in Vietnam for about 10 years, Yonhap news agency quoted sources as saying on Wednesday (March 22).

Ri Ji Hyon worked as a trainee diplomat at the North Korean embassy for more than one year and he also worked as an interpreter, according to the sources.

Using his fluent Vietnamese, he lured Doan Thi Huong into the plot to kill Kim while the latter was waiting to board a flight to Macau at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on Feb 13, according to Yonhap.  

The Vietnamese woman and Indonesian Siti Aisyah allegedly smeared banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent on Kim's face. They have been charged with murder but they claim they were told that the act was a prank on a reality show. 

Ri is among four North Korean suspects who left Malaysia on the day Kim was murdered and they are believed to have returned to Pyongyang. Interpol has issued a red notice to track down and arrest them.

Malaysian police have also sought the North Korean embassy’s assistance to interview two other North Koreans, one of whom is an airline employee and the other a senior diplomat based in Kuala Lumpur.

But Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar conceded last month that while police could issue an arrest warrant for Air Koryo employee Kim Uk Il, they could not do the same for Second Secretary Hyon Kwang Song, who has diplomatic immunity.

Kim is believed to have been assassinated on the orders of his estranged half-brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.