Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | AFP |
Armed men stood guard Tuesday at the morgue holding the body of the assassinated half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un, with officials denying reports the dead man’s son had arrived to claim the remains.
The corpse of Kim Jong-Nam — who was killed last Monday at Kuala Lumpur airport — has been at the centre of a diplomatic row between Pyongyang and Malaysia, after the North 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 identified them with a DNA sample.
Jong-Nam’s son Kim Han-Sol had been due to arrive in Kuala Lumpur from Macau on Monday night, local media and intelligence sources said, but AFP was unable to confirm his presence in the city.
In the early hours of Tuesday a convoy of four unmarked vehicles was seen entering the hospital compound where they dropped off dozens of Malaysian special forces.
They were later replaced by private security officers.
A white police van was seen leaving the complex at 4:00 am (2000 GMT Monday), an AFP journalist said.
No family member had yet come forward to claim the body, said Noor Hisham Abdullah, director general of health, at a press conference which otherwise offered few details about Malaysia’s investigation.
“We’re still waiting for next of kin to come to us,” he said, adding that an autopsy report was pending more than a week after the murder.
No wounds were found on Jong-Nam’s body and there was no evidence he had had a heart attack, Noor Hisham said.
Pyongyang’s envoy to Kuala Lumpur on Monday dismissed Malaysia’s 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.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Tuesday told reporters the North Korean ambassador’s statement was “totally uncalled for (and) diplomatically rude”.
– ‘Delusions, lies and half-truths’ –
Foreign Minister 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.