North Korean murder suspects sent home with body of victim

13 April, 2017, 02:22 | Author: Essie Rivera

Malaysian authorities wrongly identified the slain half-brother of North Korea's leader as a South Korean national and first alerted the South Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur soon after his death, sources familiar with the incident said.

A diplomatic row ensued between between Malaysia and North Korea after Jong- Nam was killed with the lethal nerve agent VX on February 13 at Kuala Lampur airport, triggering the expulsion of each other's ambassadors and a barr on their citizens from leaving. Two women accused of smearing Kim's face with poison are in custody.

Malaysia canceled its visa-waiver program with North Korea and kicked out North Korea's top envoy to Malaysia in response to the North's "diplomatically rude" behavior.

"The effect had to be planned", said Robert Gallucci, a former US chief negotiator with North Korea over its nuclear program.

North Korea has denied any role in the killing.

But in a deal announced by both sides, they said they would lift their travel bans, and Kuala Lumpur would send the body to North Korea. "What we want to achieve is the safety of the Malaysians in Pyongyang and also maintain the image of Malaysia as a sovereign country which upholds the principle of rule of law", he said.

Malaysia responded in kind, barring North Koreans from exiting its soil, including three suspects believed to be hiding in the North Korean embassy.

Malaysia has never directly accused North Korea of being behind the murder, but many say the weapon - VX nerve agent, a banned chemical weapon - suggests the North must have orchestrated it. Experts say the VX was nearly certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory, and North Korea is widely believed to possess large quantities of chemical weapons.

They were flown home in a business jet plane piloted by members of the Malaysian air force.

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China's Foreign ministry confirmed the remains of a North Korean citizen were returned to North Korea along with "relevant" North Korean citizens, in a case that USA and South Korean officials regarded as state-sponsored assassination. The North Korean leadership is widely suspected to have plotted the murder, but Pyongyang insists it wasn't involved.

"We support Malaysia's expressed intent to continue investigation into serious crimes committed on its territory", it said.

Malaysia yesterday agreed to hand over the remains of Kim Jong-Nam and the three suspects to Pyongyang in exchange for nine Malaysians that were held there.

Addressing a daily news briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang gave no other details on the swap that saw the North Koreans return home from Kuala Lumpur via Beijing.

He didn't say whether Kim's body had already left Malaysia.

Relations between Malaysia and North Korea deteriorated after that.

After the murder, a video from the victim's son Kim Han-sol, confirmed that the family were in hiding.

Malaysian police believe the women were recruited by another North Korean national, Ri Ji U, also known as James.

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