KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 ― Malaysian armed guards today stood watch at the hospital holding the body of Kim Jong-nam, the assassinated half-brother of North Korea’s leader, amid reports his son had come to Kuala Lumpur to claim the remains.
A convoy of four unmarked vehicles entered the hospital compound in the early hours of the morning, with around 30 Malaysian special forces securing the area before all of them left by mid-morning.
A white police van was seen leaving at 4.00am (2000 GMT Monday), an AFP journalist said.
The body of Kim Jong-nam ― assassinated last Monday at Kuala Lumpur airport ― has been at the centre of a diplomatic row between Pyongyang and Malaysia, after North Korea insisted it be returned and objected to an autopsy being performed.
But Malaysia rejected the request, saying the remains must stay in the morgue until a family member comes forward to identify them with a DNA sample.
On Monday night Jong-nam’s son Kim Han-sol was due to arrive in Kuala Lumpur from Macau, local media and intelligence sources said, but AFP was not immediately able to verify his presence.
Pyongyang’s envoy to Kuala Lumpur on Monday dismissed the request for a DNA sample as “preposterous” and said the embassy had the right to reclaim the body of a diplomatic passport holder.
Ambassador Kang Chol also savaged the police investigation into the killing, saying it was politically motivated and that Malaysia had conspired with South Korea from the beginning to frame the North.
Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said the “deeply insulting” accusations were based on “delusions, lies and half-truths”.
Malaysia had earlier recalled its ambassador to Pyongyang and summoned Kang for a dressing down at the foreign ministry over the ongoing spat.
The drama erupted last Monday as Kim Jong-nam waited at the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur’s main airport for a flight to Macau.
He was approached by two women, one of whom grabbed him from behind and sprayed his face with an apparently poisonous liquid, according to police and leaked CCTV footage.
He had a seizure and died before arriving at hospital, with news emerging the next day of his identity.
Malaysia’s probe has put five North Koreans in the frame for the killing, four of whom fled Malaysia the day it happened and are believed to have returned to Pyongyang.
Officers have also arrested a 28-year-old Vietnamese woman, as well as a 25-year-old Indonesian and her Malaysian boyfriend.
Seoul has said the attack was orchestrated by Pyongyang, citing a “standing order” from the leader to kill his elder sibling and a failed assassination bid in 2012 after he criticised the regime.
First born Jong-nam was once thought to be the natural successor to his father, the then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.
But after Jong-Il’s death in 2011 the succession went instead to Kim Jong-un, a child of his third marriage.
Reports of purges and executions have emerged from the current regime as the young leader tries to strengthen his grip on power in the face of international pressure over his nuclear and missile programmes. ― AFP/Malay Mail