South Koreans watch a television news showing a video footage of a man who claims he is Kim Han-Sol, a nephew of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un, at a railway station in Seoul on March 8, 2017. The video of a man describing himself as the son of assassinated North Korean exile Kim Jong-Nam emerged on March 8, apparently the first time a family member has spoken about the killing. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je
Malaysia used a DNA sample from one of Kim Jong-Nam’s children to confirm the identity of the assassinated half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un, the deputy prime minister said Wednesday.
The 45-year-old was poisoned with the deadly nerve agent VX in a brazen Cold War-style assassination on February 13 in Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
His killing triggered a fierce diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea, which have expelled each other’s ambassadors and refused to let their citizens leave.
Investigators “confirmed the identity of the body as Kim Jong-Nam based on the sample obtained from his child”, said Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, without elaborating further.
Seoul has blamed Pyongyang for Kim’s death, but the North has rejected those claims and slammed Malaysia’s refusal to hand over his body without a DNA sample from next of kin.
Ahmad Zahid told reporters the two countries began official talks on Monday to resolve the crisis and bring nine Malaysians, who are trapped in Pyongyang, home.
Pyongyang has never confirmed the identity of the victim, who was carrying a passport bearing the name of Kim Chol when he was attacked.
Malaysia officially confirmed his identity on Friday, nearly a month after the murder, but refused to say whether authorities had obtained a DNA sample from next of kin.
– Fears son could be next –
Kim’s wife and children, who were living in exile in the Chinese territory of Macau, staged a vanishing act after the murder. There are fears his 21-year-old son, Kim Han-Sol, could be targeted next.
Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed on Wednesday told AFP authorities did not want to reveal how they managed to obtain the DNA sample, citing safety concerns.
“It is from one of the children,” Nur Jazlan said.
“We do not want to say which child because it could endanger the life of that child.”
Malaysia also used fingerprints, obtained by the Japanese government following a failed attempt by Kim to enter the country and visit Disneyland in 2001, to determine his identity, he said.
“We… got the fingerprint samples from Japanese authorities. We used as many identification markers as possible to confirm the identity of Kim Jong-Nam,” he added.
In what may be the first comments by the family since Kim’s death, a young man identifying himself as Han-Sol appeared in a video that circulated last week. The claim was later verified by South Korea’s intelligence agency.
But he did not reveal his whereabouts or offer to claim his father’s body, which was embalmed recently to stop it decomposing as it lies in a morgue in Kuala Lumpur.
Investigators are seeking seven North Korean suspects, four of whom left Malaysia on the day of the murder. The police chief has said he believes the other three are hiding in North Korea’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid said the government was negotiating with “an open heart and (an) open mind” to end the impasse and was “looking into all possibilities”, including swapping the North Korean suspects for the nine stranded Malaysians.
Pyongyang has repeatedly denounced the Malaysian investigation as an attempt to smear the secretive regime, insisting that Kim most likely died of a heart attack.
Two women — one Vietnamese and one Indonesian — have been arrested and charged with Kim’s murder. Airport CCTV footage shows them approaching the victim and apparently smearing his face with a piece of cloth.