Wednesday 28 June 2017

Malaysia expels North Korean ambassador over Kim Jong Nam probe criticism

Kim Jong Nam died after an incident at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)
Kim Jong Nam died after an incident at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)

The Malaysian government has expelled North Korea's ambassador for criticising the investigation into the killing of Kim Jong Nam.

Foreign minister Anifah Aman said in a statement that a notice was sent to the North Korean Embassy on Saturday saying ambassador Kang Chol must leave the country within 48 hours.

He said that earlier in the week, Malaysia demanded North Korea apologises for criticising the investigation into the February 13 killing of the North Korean leader's estranged half brother at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

He said no apology had come and none appears forthcoming, so Malaysia has decided to expel the ambassador.

"It should be made clear, Malaysia will react strongly against any insults made against it or any attempt to tarnish its reputation," Anifah said.

The death of Kim, the half brother of Kim Jong Un, has unleashed a diplomatic battle between Malaysia and North Korea.

Authorities said Kim was killed within 20 minutes after two women smeared his face with VX, a banned nerve agent considered a weapon of mass destruction.

Ambassador Kang Chol's expulsion came just days after Malaysia said it would scrap visa-free entry for North Koreans and expressed concern over the use of the nerve agent.

Anifah had said this was an "indication of the government's concern that Malaysia may have been used for illegal activities".

Earlier Saturday, a North Korean chemist deported from Malaysia accused police of threatening to kill his family unless he confessed to killing Kim.

Ri Jong Chol, who was released after police said there was insufficient evidence to charge him, spoke to reporters in Beijing while on his way to Pyongyang.

Ri said that he was not at the airport the day Kim was killed, but that police accused him of being a mastermind and presented him with "fake evidence".

He said they showed him a picture of his wife and two children, who were staying with him in Kuala Lumpur, and threatened to kill them.

"These men kept telling me to admit to the crime, and if not, my whole family would be killed, and you too won't be safe. If you accept everything, you can live a good life in Malaysia," Ri said.

"This is when I realised that it was a trap, they were plotting to tarnish my country's reputation."

Two women, one Indonesian, one Vietnamese, have been charged with murder in the case, although both reportedly say they were duped into thinking they were playing a harmless prank.

Malaysia is looking for seven other North Korean suspects, four of whom are believed to have left the country on the day of the killing.

North Korea earlier had rejected Malaysia's post mortem finding that VX killed Kim.

Ri Tong Il, a former North Korean deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said he probably died of a heart attack because he suffered from heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Malaysia's finding that VX killed Kim boosted speculation that North Korea orchestrated the attack.

Experts say the oily poison was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory, and North Korea is widely believed to possess large quantities of chemical weapons, including VX.

North Korea is trying to retrieve Kim's body, but has not acknowledged that the victim is Kim Jong Un's half brother, as Malaysian government officials have confirmed.

Kim Jong Nam reportedly fell out of favour with his father, the late Kim Jong Il, in 2001, when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

AP

Press Association

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