North Korea and Malaysia swap accusations over airport assassination
Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang were angrily slugging it out on Monday after the assassination in Malaysia of North Korean leader Kim Jon-un’s brother
Kuala Lumpur — North Korea and Malaysia locked horns on Monday over the investigation of the killing of leader Kim Jong-un’s brother, as footage emerged of the moment he was fatally attacked in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia’s probe puts five North Koreans in the frame for the airport assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, but Pyongyang said it had no faith in the inquiry, and claimed Kuala Lumpur was in cahoots with "hostile forces".
The diplomatic confrontation gathered pace Monday when Malaysia recalled its envoy to North Korea and summoned Pyongyang’s ambassador Kang Chol for a dressing down.
But an unbowed Kang hit back. "It has been seven days since the incident, but there is no clear evidence on the cause of death," he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. "We cannot trust the investigation by the Malaysian police."
Malaysia’s response to the envoy’s press conference was equally blunt. Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said North Korea’s complaints were based on "delusions, lies and half-truths". Any suggestion of political motive in the investigation was "deeply insulting to Malaysia".
Pyongyang criticised Malaysia for carrying out a post-mortem examination without North Korean permission — a complaint Kuala Lumpur said was groundless. "The ministry emphasised that as the death occurred on Malaysian soil under mysterious circumstances, it is the responsibility of the Malaysian government to conduct an investigation to identify the cause of death," the foreign ministry said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak backed officials running the probe, saying it was "very professional".
"I have absolute confidence that they are very objective in whatever they do," he said, in his first comments since news of the killing broke.
"We have no reason why we want to do something that would paint the North Koreans in a bad light. But we would be objective and we expect them to understand that we apply the rule of law in Malaysia."
CCTV footage aired on Japanese television on Monday gave the first public glimpse of the apparent moment Jong-Nam was attacked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The dramatic film shows two women approach a portly man, identified as Jong-Nam. One grabs him from behind and appears to push a cloth in his face.
The man is then seen talking to airport staff and apparently telling them what had happened, gesturing to his head. The staff lead him to the airport clinic.
Malaysian papers published photographs at the weekend showing a man slumped in a chair at the clinic, consistent with the CCTV images of the attack.
Seoul blames Pyongyang for the attack last Monday, citing a "standing order" from the leader to kill his elder sibling and a failed assassination bid in 2012 after he criticised the regime.
The claim was bolstered at the weekend, with Malaysian police saying they believed five North Koreans were involved in the killing. One of them was already in custody, and four were believed to have fled the country on the day of the murder.
Detectives are also holding an Indonesian woman and her Malaysian boyfriend and a Vietnamese woman. Three other North Koreans were wanted for questioning, police said.
At least three of the wanted North Koreans took a flight from Jakarta to Dubai on the night of the murder, said an Indonesian immigration official. They travelled from Malaysia to Jakarta, and after Dubai returned to Pyongyang via Russia, Malaysian media quoted official sources as saying.
South Korean Unification Minister Hong Yong-Pyo said on Monday it was becoming even more clear that the North Korean government was behind the killing of Kim Jong-Nam.
"The Malaysian government is prudently investigating the case. We think it’s significant that it officially announced North Korean suspects were involved," Hong said.
Kim Jong-Nam was once thought to be the natural successor to his father, then North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. But after Jong-Il’s death in 2011 the succession went instead to his younger son Kim Jong-Un.
Reports of purges and executions have emerged from the current regime as Jong-Un tries to strengthen his grip on power in the face of international pressure over his nuclear and missile programmes.