Kim Jong-nam

Malaysia says it could arrest North Korean diplomat in Kim Jong-nam murder case

The arrest threat comes as one of female suspects in the killing said she was paid $90 for what she believed was a prank

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 February, 2017, 3:29pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 February, 2017, 10:57pm

Malaysia said on Saturday it would issue an arrest warrant for a North Korean diplomat wanted for questioning over the murder of Kim Jong-nam if he doesn’t voluntarily cooperate with the police.

“Reasonable” time will be given for the diplomat to come forward before police take further action, said Abdul Samah Mat, the police chief for Selangor state.

On Wednesday, Malaysia said 44-year-old Hyon Kwang-song, a second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, was wanted for questioning over the death of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Samah said if the person concerned did not cooperate the police would issue a notice under Malaysian law, “compelling” them to appear before the investigation team.

“And if he failed to turn up upon given this notice, then we will go to the next step by getting a warrant of arrest from the court,” he said.

It was unclear if the embassy official can be detained since police have said he has diplomatic immunity.

Eight North Koreans are wanted in connection with the case, including the diplomat. One has been detained by the Malaysian police, four are believed to have fled to North Korea, while two are still in Malaysia.

Police are trying to locate the eight suspect, another North Korean, Ri Ji U, whose whereabouts are unknown, Samah said on Saturday.

Kim Jong-nam was murdered on February 13 at the Kuala Lumpur international airport by VX nerve agent, classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction, Malaysian police said on Friday.

Indonesian embassy officials met with their national Siti Aishah on Saturday and said she had been paid 400 Malaysian ringgit ($90) to participate in what she believed was a prank.

“She only said in general that somebody asked her to do this activity...She said she was given a kind of oil, like baby oil,” Indonesian deputy ambassador Andreano Erwin told reporters after meeting Aishah, adding that no charges have been brought against her yet.

Vietnamese officials also met with their national but declined to comment.

Footage released earlier this week by Japanese broadcaster Fuji TV appears to show two women lunge at the victim as he prepared to board a flight to Macau.

They are seen grabbing at his face and then quickly walking away in different directions. Later clips show the victim asking airport officials for medical help.

Malaysian police have said the two women had rehearsed the attack before carrying it out and had been instructed to wash their hands afterwards.

Samah also confirmed that authorities raided an apartment in an upscale Kuala Lumpur suburb earlier this week in connection with the killing.

Investigators were still looking for any traces of chemicals in the apartment, he added.

Authorities are also sweeping locations that the suspects may have visited for chemicals, Samah said.

Planned talks in New York between North Korea and former US officials were cancelled following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, US media reported Saturday.

The unofficial meeting which was to have taken place next week fell through when the State Department refused to issue visas for diplomats coming from Pyongyang, The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources who knew of the decision.

It would have been the first meeting between the two countries to have taken place inside the United States in more than five years.

The meeting was organised by Donald Zagoria, a senior official at the non-profit National Committee on American Foreign Policy, who according to the Wall Street Journal has been involved in previous back-channel talks with North Korea.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse