Wednesday, February 15, 2017 10:27 am
South Korea’s spy agency say it suspects two female North Korean agents assassinated the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Malaysia, lawmakers in Seoul said on Wednesday.
The U.S. government sources also told Reuters they believed that North Korean assassins killed Kim Jong Nam, who according to Malaysian police died on Monday on his way to hospital from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
South Korean intelligence believed Kim Jong Nam was poisoned, lawmakers said after being briefed by the country’s spy agency.
They said the spy agency told them that the young, unpredictable North Korean leader had issued a “standing order” for his half-brother’s assassination, and that there had been a failed attempt in 2012.
Kim had been at the airport’s low cost terminal to catch a flight to Macau on Monday, when someone grabbed or held Kim’s face from behind, after which he felt dizzy and sought help, Malaysian police official Fadzil Ahmat told Reuters.
According to South Korea’s spy agency, Kim Jong Nam had been living with his second wife in the Chinese territory of Macau, under Beijing’s protection, the lawmakers said. One of them said Kim Jong Nam also had a wife and son in Beijing.
Portly and gregarious, Kim Jong Nam had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated state.
“If the murder of Kim Jong Nam was confirmed to be committed by the North Korean regime, that would clearly depict the brutality and inhumanity of the Kim Jong Un regime,” South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, the country’s acting president, told a security council meeting.
The meeting was called in response to Kim Jong Nam’s mysterious death, news of which first emerged late on Tuesday.
South Korea is acutely sensitive to any sign of potential instability in North Korea, and is still technically in a state of war with its impoverished and nuclear-armed neighbour.
Malaysian police said the dead man, 46, held a passport under the name Kim Chol.
Kim Jong Nam was known to spend a significant amount of time outside North Korea, travelling in Macau and Hong Kong as well as mainland China, and has been caught in the past using forged travel documents.
Malaysian police said on Tuesday the cause of Kim’s death was not yet known, and that a post-mortem would be carried out.
Kim’s body was taken on Wednesday morning to a second hospital, where an autopsy was being performed. North Korean embassy officials had arrived at the hospital and were coordinating with local authorities, police sources said.
One of the South Korean lawmakers said Seoul’s spy agency expected the body would be returned to Kim’s family in Macau.
A Malaysian police source who had seen closed-circuit TV footage from the airport said a woman was involved in the attack. (Reuters/NAN)