Kim Jong-nam’s body to be sent to North Korea as Malaysians stuck in Pyongyang allowed to return home
The body of Kim Jong-nam will be sent to North Korea and nine Malaysians in Pyongyang will be allowed to leave, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Thursday.
North Korean citizens in Malaysia will also be allowed to return home, the statement said.
Kim, 45, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, was poisoned at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13 in a brazen cold war-style assassination using a lethal nerve agent banned by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction.
“... 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.
“They took off from Pyongyang today at 7.45pm Malaysian time, and will land in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow around 5am,” he said in the statement which did not mention Kim Jong-nam by name, referring to him only as “the deceased”.
“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,” he said.
A joint statement by the North Korean government released simultaneously said both countries managed to “resolve issues arising from the death of a DPRK national” in Malaysia at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The importance of bilateral relations was reaffirmed. In this connection, both countries agreed to positively discuss the re-introduction of the visa-free system and work towards bringing the relations to a higher level,” read the statement from North Korea.
South Korea has blamed Pyongyang for Kim’s death, but the North has rejected those claims and has never confirmed the identity of the victim, who was carrying a passport bearing the name of Kim Chol when he was attacked.
Pyongyang had denounced Malaysia’s investigation as an attempt to smear the secretive regime, insisting that Kim most likely died of a heart attack.
The killing triggered a bitter row between Malaysia and North Korea, which have expelled each other’s ambassadors and barred their citizens from leaving.
Additional reporting by Reuters