Thursday 14 December 2017

Malaysia scraps visa-free entry for North Koreans amid row over Kim Jong Nam death

The bizarre killing of Kim Jong Nam has caused a diplomatic dispute between Malaysia and North Korea (AP)
The bizarre killing of Kim Jong Nam has caused a diplomatic dispute between Malaysia and North Korea (AP)
Suspects arrested (clockwise from top left): Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, North Korean Ri Jong Chol, Malaysian Muhammad Farid Bin Jallaludin and Indonesian Siti Aisyah

Eileen Ng

Malaysia is scrapping visa-free entry for North Koreans travelling into the country, the state news agency said, in the latest fallout over the killing of the estranged half brother of North Korea's ruler.

The Bernama news agency announced the move on Thursday, and it is due to come into effect on Monday.

The bizarre killing of Kim Jong Nam in a nerve agent attack at Kuala Lumpur airport has caused a diplomatic dispute between Malaysia and North Korea.

Many speculate the attack was orchestrated by North Korea, but Pyongyang has denied any role.

The report comes a day after two women accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Mr Kim were charged with murder in a Malaysian court.

Doan Thi Huong, of Vietnam, and Indonesian Siti Aisyah did not enter pleas because the magistrates' court where they appeared has no jurisdiction over a murder case.

Lead prosecutor Iskander Ahmad told the court he will ask for the case to be transferred to a higher court and for the women to be tried together.

They face a mandatory death sentence if convicted.

Meanwhile, a North Korean man will be released from custody because of lack of evidence connecting him to the attack.

Ri Jong Chol, 45, was arrested on February 17, four days after the attack.

Malaysian officials never said why he was arrested, but chief prosecutor Mohamad Apandi Ali said Ri will be released and deported because he does not have valid travel documents.

Mr Kim was attacked at the airport as he waited for a flight home to Macau on February 13. He died shortly after two women approached him and wiped something on to his face.

Both women have reportedly said they thought they were part of a prank TV show playing harmless tricks on unsuspecting people.

The attack was caught on grainy airport surveillance video. Huong was seen in a T-shirt with "LOL" emblazoned across the front.

Mr Kim's body is at the centre of a growing diplomatic battle between North Korea and Malaysia.

Pyongyang is widely speculated to have been behind the killing, particularly after Malaysia said VX had killed Mr Kim. Experts say the oily poison was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory.

North Korea's official news agency called that finding the "height of absurdity" on Wednesday, saying the two women could not have used such a deadly toxin without affecting themselves and anyone around them.

On Tuesday, a high-level North Korean delegation arrived in Kuala Lumpur seeking custody of the body.

Mr Kim was estranged from his half brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He reportedly fell out of favour with their father, the late Kim Jong Il, in 2001, when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

North Korea has a long history of ordering killings of people it views as threats to its regime. Kim Jong Nam was not known to be seeking political power, but his position as eldest son of the family that has ruled North Korea since it was founded could have made him appear to be a danger.

Press Association

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