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Monday 22 May 2017

North Korea denies involvement in airport killing of Kim's half-brother

A Kuala Lumpur newspaper carries the latest developments in the Kim Jong Nam death investigation (AP)
A Kuala Lumpur newspaper carries the latest developments in the Kim Jong Nam death investigation (AP)

North Korea has denied that its agents masterminded the assassination of the half-brother of leader Kim Jong Un, saying a Malaysian investigation into the death is full of "holes and contradictions".

The North's response came a day after Malaysian police said they were seeking two more North Koreans, including the second secretary of North Korea's embassy in Kuala Lumpur, in connection with the February 13 killing of Kim Jong Nam at a Malaysian airport.

Malaysia police have not directly pinpointed North Korea as being behind the death of Mr Kim, but have already arrested a North Korean man working at a Malaysian company along with three other people and are searching for several more North Koreans.

The Korean Jurists Committee, a legal body affiliated with North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament, said the Malaysian investigation lacked fairness and was influenced by the South Korean government, which blames Pyongyang for the death.

The North has not acknowledged that the dead man is Kim Jong Nam and Thursday's statement described the man only as a North Korean citizen bearing a diplomatic passport.

It said South Korea had "kicked up a fuss" and had plotted to have North Korea blamed for the killing.

"The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia as the citizen of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of North Korea) died in its land," the statement said.

Malaysian police said on Wednesday that the two women suspected of fatally poisoning Mr Kim were trained to coat their hands with toxic chemicals then wipe them on his face.

Police say the substance used remains unknown, but it was potent enough to kill Mr Kim before he could reach hospital.

Inspector general of police Khalid Abu Bakar said the women, one Vietnamese and the other Indonesian, knew they were handling poisonous materials and "were warned to take precautions".

The women have been arrested.

Surveillance video showed both keeping their hands away from their bodies after the attack, he said, then going to restrooms to wash.

Those details are not clear in video obtained by media outlets.

But the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur has already ridiculed the police account and demanded the immediate release of the two "innocent women".

An embassy statement asked how the women were able to survive if they also had the deadly toxins on their hands.

Malaysian police said the women washed their hands soon after poisoning Mr Kim.

Mr Khalid said the women had practised the attack at two Kuala Lumpur shopping centres.

"We strongly believe it is a planned thing and that they have been trained," he said.

Mr Khalid could not confirm whether North Korea's government was behind Mr Kim's death but added: "What is clear is that those involved are North Koreans."

The North Korean embassy's statement also questioned the fairness of the Malaysian investigation, which it said was based on lies and biased presumptions and has been tainted by South Korean influence.

At least one of the women has said she was tricked into attacking Mr Kim, believing she was taking part in a comedy prank TV show.

The case has perplexed toxicologists, who question how the two women could have walked away unscathed after handling a powerful poison.

Mr Kim had spent most of the past 15 years living in China and south-east Asia and is believed to have had at least three children with two women.

No family members have come forward to claim his body.

South Korea's spy agency believes North Korea was behind the killing, but has produced no evidence.

North Korea has a long history of ordering killings of people it views as threats to its regime.

While Kim Jong Nam was not thought to be seeking influence, his position as eldest son of the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding could have made him appear to be a danger.

He was at the airport to fly to Macau, where he had a home.

The report on the incident in North Korea's state-controlled media came after more than a week of silence.

The report from the highly selective official outlet KCNA did not acknowledge the victim was Mr Kim and it largely echoed previous comments by North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia.

But the publication of at least some news inside North Korea could be a sign of the country's concern over growing international speculation that Pyongyang dispatched a hit squad to kill Mr Kim.

AP

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