North Korea denied on Thursday that its agents masterminded the assassination of the half-brother of leader Kim Jong-Un, saying a Malaysian investigation into the death of one of its nationals is full of "holes and contradictions."
The Korean Jurists Committee, a legal body affiliated with North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament, said in a statement Thursday that the Malaysian investigation lacks fairness and was influenced by the South Korean government, which blames Pyongyang for the death.
Kim had spent most of the past 15 years living in China and Southeast Asia. He is believed to have had at least three children with two women. No family members have come forward to claim the body. He was at the airport to fly to Macau, where he had a home.
South Korea's spy agency believes North Korea was behind the killing but has produced no evidence. Analysts in Seoul said Kim Jong-Un likely had his brother killed because he could be a potential challenger to his rule in a country where his family ruled for three generations and where the bloodline is still extolled in the country's founding mythology.
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 the eldest son of the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding could have made him appear to be a danger.
How did Kim Jong-Nam die?
Leaked CCTV footage shows the portly Kim being approached by two women at Kuala Lumpur International Airport as he waited for a flight to Macau. The women appear to put something on his face. Moments later he is seen asking for help from airport staff, who direct him to a clinic. Malaysian police said he suffered a seizure and died before he reached a hospital.
Malaysian police said on Wednesday that the two women suspected of fatally poisoning Kim Jong-Nam were trained to coat their hands with toxic chemicals and then wipe them on his face.
An autopsy has ruled out heart failure, with investigators focusing on the theory that a toxin was applied to his face, in what South Korea has insisted was a targeted assassination.
Police say the substance used remains unknown, but it was potent enough to kill Kim before he could make it to a hospital. Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters that the women, one Vietnamese and the other Indonesian, knew they were handling poisonous materials and "were warned to take precautions."
Surveillance video showed both women keeping their hands away from their bodies after the attack, he said, then going to restrooms to wash. Those details are not clear in the 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 Kim. Khalid said the women had practiced the attack at two Kuala Lumpur malls. "We strongly believe it is a planned thing and that they have been trained," he said.
Khalid couldn't confirm whether North Korea's government was behind Kim's death but added, "What is clear is that those involved are North Koreans."
At least one of the women has said she was tricked into attacking Kim Jong-Nam, 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.
Malaysian police on Wednesday said they were seeking two more North Koreans, including the second secretary of North Korea's embassy in Kuala Lumpur, in connection with the 13 February killing of Kim Jong-Nam at a Malaysian airport.
Malaysia police have not directly pinpointed North Korea as being behind the death of Kim Jong-Nam, but have already arrested a North Korean man working at a Malaysian company along with three other Southeast Asian people. They are searching for several more North Koreans.
Malaysia arrested four people — a North Korean man, a Malaysian, who was later released, and women from Indonesia and Vietnam — over the 13 February attack.
Malaysian police said that they want to talk to a total of eight North Koreans, although they think several may have fled to Pyongyang immediately after the killing. The wanted men include a diplomat from the North Korean embassy to Kuala Lumpur, as well as an airline employee.
Reaction of North Korea to the alleged assassination
North Korea’s state media broke a 10-day silence on Thursday on the murder of Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother, launching a ferocious assault on Malaysia for “immoral” handling of the case and for playing politics with the corpse.
In its first comments on the airport assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, KCNA said Malaysia bore responsibility for the death and accused it of conspiring with South Korea.
"Malaysia is obliged to hand his body to the DPRK (North Korea) side as it made an autopsy and forensic examination of it in an illegal and immoral manner", the North's Korean Jurists Committee said, in comments carried by the state-run news agency.
Malaysia has not released the corpse "under the absurd pretext" that it needs a DNA sample from the dead man's family, it said in a lengthy statement that never identified the victim.
"This proves that the Malaysian side is going to politicize the transfer of the body in utter disregard of international law and morality and thus attain a sinister purpose," it said.
The North has not acknowledged that the dead man is Kim Jong-Nam. Thursday's statement described the man only as a North Korean citizen bearing a diplomatic passport. It said that 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 died in its land," the statement said. The DPRK refers to the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, the country's official name.
Seoul's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se said Wednesday in London that the killing was a chance for the international community "to take a series of steps" against the North.
Yun said the assassination by the North, if confirmed, would constitute a "serious breach" of international order.
"If North Korea is confirmed to have been behind the killing, the international community would view this as a state-led act of terrorism that infringes upon Malaysia's sovereignty", Yun was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency after a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
The North's statement, issued in both English and Korean, repeated Pyongyang's demand for a joint investigation, stressing it was ready to dispatch a delegation.
It said Malaysia had initially claimed the death was from heart failure, and blamed the poisoning theory on "wild rumours" from South Korean media.
"The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia as the citizen of the DPRK died in its land," KCNA said.
"The unfriendly attitude of the Malaysian side found a more striking manifestation in the matter of transferring his body to the DPRK side. The DPRK... will watch the future attitude of the Malaysian side."
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2017 11:32:23 IST