North Korea says Malaysia is to blame for death of its citizen

North Korea says Malaysia is to blame for death of its citizen
A North Korea official's car is seen leaving the North Korea embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 22, 2017.
PHOTO: Reuters

SEOUL - North Korea said on Thursday (Feb 23) that Malaysia is to blame for the death of its citizen there last week and accused the Malaysian government of demonstrating "unfriendly attitude" under a scenario drawn up by South Korea.

Malaysia had initially informed the North that the person bearing a diplomatic passport had died of a heart attack at Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb 13, Pyongyang's state-run KCNA news agency said.

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KCNA, citing a spokesman for a state committee, said Malaysia quickly changed its position and started to complicate the matter after reports surfaced in South Korea that the man was poisoned to death.

"What merits more serous attention is the fact that the unjust acts of the Malaysian side are timed to coincide with the anti-DPRK conspiratorial racket launched by the South Korean authorities," KCNA said, using the North's formal name of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

KCNA, in the first official media report of the killing, did not name the person who died on the way to the hospital or acknowledge that he was the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, referring to him only as "a citizen of the DPRK".

"The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia as the citizen of the DPRK died in its land," the report said.

On Wednesday, Malaysian police named a North Korean diplomat along with a state airline official who are wanted for questioning over the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the 46-year-old older half-brother of Kim Jong Un.

Half-brother of N Korean leader assassinated in Malaysia

Malaysia's police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said both officials were in Malaysia but could not confirm if they were in the North Korean embassy. So far, police have identified a total of eight North Koreans suspected of being linked to the killing. One is in custody.

Malaysia has denied North Korea's request for the body to be handed over to its embassy directly, saying it would be released to the next of kin, although none has come forward.

Read also: Najib says N orth Korean envoy was 'diplomatically rude'

The KCNA report accused Malaysia of breaking international law by conducting autopsies on a person bearing a diplomatic passport.

The North Korean Embassy has also hit back. It questioned claims that a poison had been used to kill Mr Kim Jong Nam, who collapsed after two women rubbed a substance on his face at KL International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on Feb 13.

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The embassy also asked for the release of all suspects, including the "innocent females".

Police said the women knew they were using a toxin. They also added that they would "compel" the diplomat, who was avoiding them, to come in for an interview.

Read also: Female suspects knew it was poison attack, Malaysia police say

Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters on Wednesday that Mr Hyon Kwang Song, 44, the second secretary at the embassy, and Mr Kim Uk Il, 37, who works for North Korean airline Air Koryo, were being sought to aid investigations into the attack on Mr Kim.

"We hope the North Korean Embassy will co-operate. If not, we will compel them to come. We will issue a warrant of arrest," Tan Sri Khalid said. The men were still in Malaysia, he added, and the embassy has been uncooperative throughout the case.

It is unclear if the police will be able to question Mr Hyon, as he enjoys diplomatic immunity. Given the tension between the two countries, it is unlikely Pyongyang will waive the immunity of the officer, who is not a suspect at this point. Still, it was the first time the police had flagged his name.

The embassy in KL has repeatedly accused Malaysia of conspiring with its enemies to pin the blame for the murder on Pyongyang. This has led to strongly worded exchanges and the recall of Malaysia's ambassador from the secretive North-east Asian country.

Photo: AsiaOne

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