North Korea lambasted Malaysia on Friday for refusing to release the body of its leader Kim Jong-Un's half-brother who was allegedly murdered there this week, giving a new twist in the already sensational case.
Pyongyang said it would not accept any result of a post-mortem conducted by Malaysian authorities on Kim Jong-Nam's body, accusing Kuala Lumpur of "colluding with the hostile forces towards us who are desperate to harm us of malice," clearly referring to rival South Korea.
In a statement outside the morgue of the main hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, North Korean envoy Kang Chol, appearing furious, accused Malaysia of "trying to conceal something" over the case.
This was the first reaction from North Korea following the death of Kim Jong-Nam in Malaysia on Monday.
Kim died en route to a hospital after reportedly telling medical personnel that a woman had attacked him with a chemical spray at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2).
Kang Chol's statement came after Malaysian officials said Friday that they would not release the body until a family member provided a DNA sample to prove the identity of Kim Jong-Nam, who the South Korean and U.S. governments believe was murdered by North Korean government agents.
Kang Chol's statement did not mention Kim Jong-Nam by name but Malaysian authorities had confirmed his identity two days after the killing.
The envoy read about half the statement and then one of his aides gave copies to the press, reporters at the scene said.
The envoy said the Malaysian side initially informed his embassy that a North Korean citizen had died from a heart attack while being taken to a hospital and had requested the embassy confirm that he was indeed a North Korean citizen.
Kang Chol said that after the embassy confirmed it, the Malaysian authorities wanted to conduct a post-mortem on Kim "that we rejected because he is a diplomatic passport holder and our citizen who is under the consular protection of the DPRK [North Korea's official name]."
He charged that the Malaysian side "forced the postmortem without our permission and witnessing" and that North Korea would "categorically reject the result of the postmortem conducted unilaterally excluding our attendance.
"This is the culmination of the violation of the human rights of and infringing upon our citizen disregarding the elementary international laws and the consular laws."
‘Release the body without further delay’
Kang Chol said he met a senior Malaysian police officer and "strongly demanded him to release the body without further delay," but that the request was rejected.
He said the officer had raised an issue "which has nothing to do with clarification of the cause of death," apparently referring to a request for a DNA sample to prove the identity of Kim Jong-Nam.
"This strongly suggests that the Malaysian side is trying to conceal something which needs more time and deceive us and that they are colluding with the hostile forces towards us who are desperate to harm us of malice," he said.
He said the Malaysian moves might be dictated by "someone else," suggesting rival South Korea.
South Korea has pointed the finger of blame over Kim Jong-Nam's death at North Korea, citing a "standing order" from Kim Jong-Un to kill his sibling and a failed assassination bid in 2012 after he criticized the regime.
Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi, a former Tokyo Shimbun editor who got closer to Kim Jong-Nam than most reporters, told BenarNews sister entity Radio Free Asia this week that Kim Jong-Un may have given an order to assassinate his half-brother.
"Although Kim Jong-Un’s approval of an assassination is possible, I think it is also possible that the regime’s high-ranking officials close to Kim Jong-Un may have acted out of loyalty and internal competition," he said.
"As you know, many of them are getting purged or dismissed, and Kim Jong-Nam was still an influential person, so there is a possibility that the people who decided to get rid of Kim Jong-Nam were afraid of Kim Jong-Un."
Malaysian police have arrested two women – one holding a Vietnamese passport and the other an Indonesian document – as well as a Malaysian man as part of investigation into the death.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.