North Korea locked horns with Malaysia on Monday over the investigation into the killing of leader Kim Jong-Un’s brother, as footage emerged of the moment he was fatally attacked in a Kuala Lumpur airport.
Malaysia’s probe has put five North Koreans in the frame for the airport assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, but Pyongyang said it had no faith in the investigation and claimed Kuala Lumpur was in cahoots with “hostile forces”.
The diplomatic confrontation gathered pace Monday when Malaysia recalled its envoy to North Korea and summoned Pyongyang’s ambassador Kang Chol for a dressing down.
But an unbowed Kang hit back.
“It has been seven days since the incident, but there is no clear evidence on the cause of death and at the moment we cannot trust the investigation by the Malaysian police”, he told reporters in the Malaysian capital.
A convoy of four unmarked vehicles entered the hospital compound where the body of Kim Jong-Nam was being held in the early hours of Tuesday morning, with around 30 Malaysian special forces securing the area before most of them left.
Two vehicles and a handful of officers remained in the compound, while a white police van was seen leaving at 4:00 am
(2000 GMT Monday).
Earlier, the Malaysian response to the ambassador’s press conference had been equally blunt, with Foreign Minister Anifah Aman saying North Korea’s complaints were based on “delusions, lies and half-truths”.
Any suggestion that the investigation had a political motive was “deeply insulting to Malaysia”, he said.
Pyongyang has also criticised Malaysia for carrying out a post-mortem examination without North Korean permission — a complaint Kuala Lumpur said was groundless.
“The ministry emphasised that as the death occurred on Malaysian soil under mysterious circumstances, it is the responsibility of the Malaysian government to conduct an investigation to identify the cause of death,” the foreign ministry said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak backed those running the probe, saying it was “very professional”.
“I have absolute confidence that they are very objective in whatever they do,” he said, in his first comments since news of the killing broke.
“We have no reason why we want to do something that would paint the North Koreans in a bad light. But we would be objective and we expect them to understand that we apply the rule of law in Malaysia.”
– Dramatic film –
CCTV footage aired on Japanese television on Monday gave the first public glimpse of the apparent moment Jong-Nam was attacked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The dramatic film shows two women approaching a portly man — identified as Jong-Nam — with one of them grabbing him from behind and appearing to push a cloth in his face.
The man is then seen talking to airport staff and apparently explaining to them what had happened, gesturing to his head.
The staff then lead him to the airport clinic.
Photographs showing a man slumped in a chair at the clinic, consistent with the CCTV images of the attack, were published in the Malaysian press over the weekend.
Seoul has pointed the finger of blame at Pyongyang for the attack last Monday, citing a “standing order” from the leader to kill his elder sibling and a failed assassination bid in 2012 after he criticised the regime.
The claim was bolstered over the weekend, with Malaysian police saying they believed five North Koreans were involved in the killing.
One of them was already in custody, and four are believed to have fled the country on the day of the murder.
Detectives are also holding an Indonesian woman and her Malaysian boyfriend, as well as a Vietnamese woman.
Three other North Koreans were wanted for questioning, police said.
At least three of the wanted North Koreans took a flight from Jakarta to Dubai on the evening of the murder, an Indonesian immigration official said.
They had travelled from Malaysia to Jakarta and after Dubai returned to Pyongyang via Russia, Malaysian media quoted official sources as saying.
South Korea’s Unification Minister Hong Yong-Pyo said Monday it was becoming even more clear that the North Korean government was behind the killing of Kim Jong-Nam.
“The Malaysian government is prudently investigating the case and we think it’s significant that it officially announced North Korean suspects were involved,” Hong told reporters.
Kim Jong-Nam was once thought to be the natural successor to his father, the then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.
But after Jong-Il’s death in 2011 the succession went instead to his younger son Kim Jong-Un.
Reports of purges and executions have emerged from the current regime as Jong-Un tries to strengthen his grip on power in the face of international pressure over his nuclear and missile programmes.