Malaysia on Friday rejected Pyongyang’s demand that it hand over the body of Kim Jong-Nam, the assassinated half-brother of North Korea’s leader, saying it would only be released when his family provide DNA samples.
Detectives in Kuala Lumpur are trying to get to the bottom of the cloak-and-dagger murder that South Korea says was carried out by poison-wielding female agents working for their secretive northern neighbour.
North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol said Pyongyang would reject the result of any Malaysian autopsy carried out without its permission and claimed the police were being pressured by hostile forces, notably South Korea.
“The Malaysian side forced the post-mortem without our permission and witnessing. We will categorically reject the result of the post-mortem conducted unilaterally,” he told reporters gathered late Friday outside the morgue where the body is being held.
It was the first official comment from North Korea since the killing of Kim Jong-Nam at Kuala Lumpur international airport on Monday.
Forensic specialists on Friday began testing samples from the dead man’s body to try to determine the toxin that was apparently sprayed in his face as he readied to board a plane.
Despite the North Korean Ambassador’s demand to hand over the body, Kuala Lumpur has stood firm, saying it would not release it until procedures were complete.
“So far no family member or next of kin has come to identify or claim the body. We need a DNA sample of a family member to match the profile of the dead person,” Selangor state police chief Abdul Samah Mat told AFP.
“North Korea has submitted a request to claim the body, but before we release the body we have to identify who the body belongs to,” he said.
Police were meanwhile questioning two women — one travelling on a Vietnamese passport and the other on an Indonesian document — as well as a Malaysian man.
The drama erupted on Monday morning as Kim Jong-Nam, the estranged elder brother of Kim Jong-Un, prepared to board a plane to Macau.
Malaysian police say the 45-year-old was jumped by two women who squirted some kind of liquid in his face.
Kim Jong-Nam told staff he was suffering from a headache and was taken to the airport clinic grimacing in pain, according to Malaysian media citing CCTV footage from the airport.
One of the women walked to a taxi rank immediately after the attack, according to the same footage.
He was rushed to hospital suffering from a seizure but was dead before he arrived.
South Korea has pointed the finger of blame at the North, citing a “standing order” from Mr. Kim Jong-Un to kill his sibling and a failed assassination bid in 2012 after he criticised the regime.
A Japanese journalist who knew and wrote a book on Kim Jong-Nam on Friday said he was a courageous man who sought to reform his country.
“Even if it put him in danger, he wanted to tell his opinions to Pyongyang through me or other media,” Yoji Gomi said in Tokyo.
AFP correspondents in Pyongyang say celebrations to mark the birthday of Kim Jong-Il, the late father of both men, have gone ahead without reference to the death.
Woman in ‘LOL’ top
Malaysian police on Wednesday arrested a 28-year-old woman carrying a Vietnamese passport which identified her as Doan Thi Huong.
Local media said she was the woman seen in CCTV images from the airport wearing a white top with the letters “LOL” emblazoned on the front.
Officers later arrested Muhammad Farid Bin Jalaluddin, a 26-year-old Malaysian man. He led them to his girlfriend, a 25-year-old Indonesian national named Siti Aishah.
Ms. Aishah’s family in Jakarta expressed shock over her arrest, with her former father-in-law saying there was “no way such a nice person would do that”.
“I could not believe it because she was a good person,” said Tija Liang Kiong, 56.
Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said Aishah appeared to be the “victim of a scam or a fraud” who thought she was taking part in a reality show involving hidden cameras.
First-born Kim Jong-Nam was once thought to be the natural successor to his father, but on Kim Jong-Il’s death in 2011 the succession went to Mr. Kim Jong-Un, who was born to the former leader’s third wife.
Reports of purges and executions have emerged from the current regime as Mr. Kim Jong-Un tries to strengthen his grip on power in the face of international pressure over nuclear and missile programmes.
The most notable of these was the 2013 execution for treason of the young leader’s influential uncle, Jang Song-Thaek.