One of Kim Jong Nam’s children gave investigators DNA needed to confirm the identity of the assassinated half-brother of North Korea’s leader, the Malaysian deputy prime minister told reporters Wednesday.
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi declined to reveal the identity of the person who gave a DNA sample or say how and where it was collected. This was the first time a Malaysian official publicly acknowledged that Kim’s next-of-kin was involved in positively identifying his body.
“We know that the Inspector General of Police has announced that the body is of Kim Jong Nam based on the sample obtained from the deceased’s child. And the sample has been put through the forensic and DNA procedures,” Zahid, who is also the home minister, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
Last week, Malaysia’s police chief said “witnesses” had helped authorities legally confirm that Kim Jong Nam was the North Korean man initially identified as Kim Chol who was killed in a poison-attack at a Kuala Lumpur area airport on Feb. 13.
According to a high-level Malaysian government source who spoke to BenarNews on condition of anonymity, Kim’s child was taken to a “neutral country” to hand over DNA. The source, however, declined to say more.
Zahid’s deputy at the Home Ministry, Nur Jazlan Mohamed, said officials didn’t want to identify the person who provided the sample “because it could endanger the life of that child,” Agence France-Presse reported.
The identification also was made using fingerprints sent by the Japanese government, Nur Jazlan told AFP. Authorities in Japan had Kim’s fingerprints on file since immigration officials stopped him in 2001 as he tried to enter that country on a fake passport from the Dominican Republic.
Kim Jong Nam had been living in the Chinese territory of Macau with his wife and two children.
On March 8, a video of a young man claiming to be his son, Kim Han Sol, surfaced online. According to a group that posted the video, Kim Han Sol and his sister and mother were hiding out in an undisclosed location over fears for their own lives following the assassination.
‘Looking at all possibilities’
The killing on Malaysian soil of Kim, the older half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, caused a diplomatic row between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang, which have maintained bilateral ties since 1973.
Both countries have expelled their respective ambassadors and announced exit bans on each other’s citizens.
Malaysia has arrested and charged two Southeast Asian women with the murder and has named seven North Koreans as suspects in the case. Prime Minister Najib Razak also accused North Korea’s government of being behind the assassination.
The row began over Malaysia’s refusal to hand over Kim’s body to North Korea without a post-mortem and unless next-of-kin came forward to give DNA and claim the body. More than a month has passed since the killing, but no next-of-kin has claimed the remains.
On Monday, Malaysian officials said they were giving Kim’s family members another three weeks to claim the body, but had not decided what to do should it remain unclaimed. The following day, officials said the body had been embalmed to prevent decomposition.
On Wednesday, Zahid appeared to strike a softer tone by indicating that Malaysia was not ruling out the option of handing over Kim’s body to the North Koreans, in exchange for nine Malaysians who have been stranded in Pyongyang because of the exit ban.
“We are looking at all possibilities,” Zahid told reporters when asked whether Malaysia would consider such a swap in negotiating the release of the nine Malaysians.
Football venue up in the air
Meanwhile, the head of the Kuala Lumpur-based Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced Wednesday that an Asian Cup qualifying match between Malaysia and North Korea, originally scheduled for March 28, was being postponed until June 8 at a venue to be determined.
On March 6, the Football Association of Malaysia cited security reasons for the national team pulling out of this month’s match, which was to take place in Pyongyang.
The confederation has sent North Korea’s football association a request to nominate a neutral venue for the June 8 match by April 14, AFC General Secretary Windsor John said in a statement.
Should that match take place on a neutral pitch, then a second match between the two nations scheduled for Nov. 14 would also take place in a neutral setting “to preserve sporting values the spirit of fair play,” John said.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.