Malaysia Confirms Kim Jong Nam’s Identity as Nerve Agent Victim

Anis Natasha and Fadzil Aziz
Kuala Lumpur
170310-MY-NK-kim-620.jpg Members of a Malaysian youth group prepare to hand over flowers as a gesture of peace to North Korean embassy officials in Kuala Lumpur, March 10, 2017.

“Witnesses” have helped Malaysian authorities legally confirm that Kim Jong Nam was the man killed in a poison-attack in the Kuala Lumpur area last month, Malaysia’s police chief said Friday but without giving more details.

Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar cited a need to protect witnesses as he announced the official verification of the dead man’s identity, whose North Korean diplomatic passport bore the name Kim Chol.

He said investigators verified the identity upon receiving witness confirmation that the body belonged to the 45-year-old half-brother of Pyongyang leader Kim Jong Un.

“We have now established that Kim Chol is Kim Jong Nam. We have fulfilled the requirements of the law in identifying the body,” Khalid told a news conference.

“For the safety of the witnesses, we will not be divulging any explanation. I am not going to say more than that,” Khalid added.

Weeks ago, Malaysian officials had identified the dead man as Kim Jong Nam, citing a comparison between the passport with Kim Chol’s name and documents provided by the North Korean embassy, according to Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The North Korean ambassador, who has since been expelled from Malaysia, disputed Zahid’s assertion and officials representing the regime in Pyongyang never referred to the man killed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb. 13 as Kim Jong Nam.

Since the killing, which, according to Malaysian authorities, was caused by a banned nerve agent being smeared on his face, officials have arrested and charged two Southeast Asian for his assassination and identified at least seven North Koreans as suspects. This week, amid a diplomatic feud with Pyongyang, Malaysia’s prime minister accused North Korea of being behind the assassination.

Bilateral tensions have escalated over Malaysia’s refusal to release Kim’s body without next-of-kin coming forward to claim the remains and provide DNA needed for a positive identification.

At Friday’s news conference, Khalid did not say whether any of Kim’s relatives were among the witness or witnesses who helped verify the dead man’s identity, or whether any DNA sample was handed over to police.

“I will not reveal anymore about the identification process,” Khalid said.

“We have no use for the body anymore and we will give the body to the Ministry of Health as no one has claimed the body,” the police chief added. Under Malaysian law, only next-of-kin can claim a person’s remains, he noted.

Malaysians rally

Tensions between the two countries ratcheted up this week as they expelled their respective ambassadors and imposed exit bans from their territories on each other’s citizens.

On Thursday, two Malaysian employees working for the U.N. in North Korea left that country. Three staffers at the Malaysian embassy in Pyongyang as well as their families were said to be stuck in the communist state Friday because of the travel ban.

Prime Minister Najib Razak on Friday called on his countrymen, including the political opposition, to come together and support his government’s efforts in resolving the diplomatic crisis with North Korea.

“If we are united when facing any problems or threats, the enemy from outside would not be able to destroy everything we have built over time,” Najib wrote in a blog post on his official website.

Malaysia has maintained cordial diplomatic relations with other countries but they should not take this for granted, he said, alluding to bilateral ties with North Korea dating back 44 years.

“This does not mean any of them could abuse the hospitality Malaysia has provided over time and violate the law of our country or do as they please without respecting our sovereignty,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysians on Friday prayed and rallied in Kuala Lumpur for the safe return of their nine countrymen who have been prevented from leaving North Korea.

Demonstrators converged outside the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

One of the groups, Malaysian Youth Solidarity brought bouquets of flowers as a goodwill gesture in calling for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.