(FILES) This file photo taken on May 4, 2001 shows an immigration officer (L) escorting Kim Jong-Nam, son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, getting off a bus to board an ANA905 (All Nippon Airways) airplane at Narita airport near Tokyo. Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has been assassinated in Malaysia, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said on February 14, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA
The body of Kim Jong-Nam, half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, has arrived in Pyongyang, Chinese officials confirmed Friday.
“The body of the DPRK citizen who died in Malaysia and relevant DPRK citizens have returned to the DPRK today via Beijing,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing.
“According to international practices, and also out of humanitarianism, China offered necessary assistance to the transit of the body,” he added.
Kim Jong-Nam was killed with the lethal nerve agent VX on February 13 in a Kuala Lumpur airport, in a brutally clinical operation which removed a potential claimant to the Kim throne — he was late leader Kim Jong-Il’s first-born — who was an embarrassment to Pyongyang.
The murder triggered a diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea, which expelled each other’s ambassadors and barred their citizens from leaving.
Malaysian investigators were seeking seven North Korean suspects, four of whom left the country on the day of the murder, three of whom were believed to be hiding in North Korea’s embassy, according to the police chief.
But in a deal announced by both sides, they said they would lift their travel bans, and Kuala Lumpur would send the body to North Korea.
Pyongyang has refused to confirm the identity of the victim, who was carrying a North Korean passport bearing the name Kim Chol when he was killed.
Malaysia however has officially confirmed his identity using DNA evidence, and had said it had been waiting for his next of kin to claim the body.
South Korea has blamed Pyongyang for the Cold War-style killing, citing what they say was a standing order from North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un to murder his exiled and estranged half-brother.