Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | AFP | The body of Kim Jong-Nam will be returned to North Korea and nine Malaysians in Pyongyang allowed to leave under a deal struck between the two countries, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak said Thursday.
North Korean citizens in Kuala Lumpur will also be allowed to return home, Najib said in a statement, which was confirmed by North Korean state media.
“… following the completion of the autopsy on the deceased and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea, the coroner has approved the release of the body,” said Najib.
The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was poisoned with the lethal nerve agent VX in a brazen Cold War-style assassination on February 13 in Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The killing triggered a bitter row between Malaysia and North Korea, which expelled each other’s ambassadors and barred their citizens from leaving.
Najib said the nine Malaysians prevented from leaving North Korea “have now been allowed to return to Malaysia”.
“They took off from Pyongyang today at 7:45 pm (1145 GMT) Malaysian time, and will land in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow around 5:00 am,” he said in the statement that referred to Kim Jong-Nam as “the deceased” rather than by name.
“I had a deep personal concern about this matter, and we worked intensively behind the scenes to achieve this successful outcome.
“Many challenges were overcome to ensure the return of our fellow Malaysians. The safety and security of our citizens will always be my first priority.”
Two women — one Vietnamese and one Indonesian — have been arrested and charged with the murder. Airport CCTV footage shows them approaching the 45-year-old victim and apparently smearing his face with a piece of cloth.
South Korea has blamed Pyongyang for the killing, citing what they say was a standing order from Kim Jong-Un to kill his exiled half-brother.
But the North denies this and has denounced Malaysia’s investigation as an attempt to smear the secretive regime.
Pyongyang has also refused to confirm the identity of the victim, who was carrying a North Korean passport bearing the name of Kim Chol when he was killed.
It had insisted that the man died of a heart attack and his body should be handed over to them.
Malaysia however has officially confirmed his identity using DNA evidence and had said it was waiting for his next of kin to claim the body.