Malaysian police arrest North Korean man over Kim Jong-nam’s murder
Malaysian police said on Saturday they had arrested a North Korean man in connection with the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The man was identified as Ri Jong-chol, born in 1970. He was arrested on Friday night in Selangor state, the police said in a statement.
He is the fourth suspect to be arrested in the investigations surrounding the murder of Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
Malaysia’s Chinese-language daily China Press reported on Saturday that the arrest was made on Friday evening in the capital.
It said authorities are investigating whether the man is the mastermind behind the mysterious case, in which Kim Jong-nam, son of late North Korean leader Kin Jong-il, was apparently poisoned at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday.
Relatives of Kim Jong-nam, fearing for their safety after his murder in Malaysia on Monday, have been placed under police protection in Macau, sources have confirmed.
The police have already arrested three people over his death – a woman who holds a Vietnamese passport, an Indonesian woman, and a Malaysian man who is believed to be the Indonesian woman’s boyfriend.
The police believe that the holder of the North Korean passport could be one of four men suspected of instructing the two women to spray poison at Kim Jong-nam.
Meanwhile, North Korea denounced Malaysia on Friday over the handling of Kim’s body, although it did not mention Kim by name.
On Saturday, Malaysia performed a second autopsy after the first procedure was inconclusive. Malaysia’s Health Minister S. Subramaniam said a toxicology report on the body could take up to two weeks.
“Normally it will take about two weeks to find out what was the cause of death.... Until we find something conclusive we will not be able to release the report,” he said.
Speaking to reporters outside the morgue late on Friday, Pyongyang’s ambassador said Malaysian officials may be “trying to conceal something” and “colluding with hostile forces.”“We will categorically reject the result of the post mortem conducted unilaterally,” North Korea’s Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol said in a statement read out before midnight outside a hospital in the Malaysian capital, where the autopsy was performed on the body of Kim.
Kang “strongly demanded” Malaysia release the body without further delay, calling the incident a “political plot” by South Korea and other “hostile forces” against Pyongyang.
Malaysia has concluded that the man who died Monday en route to hospital following the suspected assassination at the airport was the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader.
He said the embassy had tried to stop the postmortem because the dead man was a “diplomatic passport holder” and “our citizen” who was under its consular protection.
The statement marked North Korea’s first reaction in public to the murder of the 45-year-old half-brother of its leader, who had spent a significant time in foreign countries.
He had been in Malaysia since February 6 with a passport under the name Kim Chol. He is suspected of having been attacked by two women at the airport before he was about to leave for Macao, where South Korea’s spy agency said his family is based. One of the women allegedly sprayed something on his face at the scene.
Before the post mortem was conducted on Wednesday, North Korea told Malaysia that it wanted the body cremated in the Southeast Asian country, according to a Malaysian government official, who spoke to Kyodo News on condition of anonymity on Thursday.
The autopsy was delayed for two days because North Korean officials tried to block it on grounds that their government has jurisdiction over the body, according to the official.
But Malaysian police eventually went ahead with the procedure, determining that it is a serious criminal case and the cause of death must be confirmed.
Malaysia’s Selangor state police chief Abdul Samah Mat said the body cannot be released before the autopsy results come out.-
Kim’s next of kin have priority to claim the body, but if no such claim is made, it could be released to the embassy, he said.
Meanwhile, the apparent assassination of Kim Jong-nam is strengthening bipartisan calls for the U.S. to re-list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation lifted nine years ago. Doing so would increase the country’s isolation, while potentially complicating any future diplomacy to halt its nuclear and missile programmes.
“It is time to put little Kim back on that list because he is a world terrorist and a threat to world peace,” Representative Ted Poe of Texas said.
Additional reporting by Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse