A dispute over custody of a slain North Korean’s body yesterday pushed two governments further apart as they tried to navigate the aftermath of what appeared to be the assassination of an outcast member of North Korea’s ruling elite.
Kim Jong-nam, who was 45 or 46 and had lived in exile for years, suddenly fell ill at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday as he waited for a flight home to Macau.
Reporting dizziness and pain, he told medical workers at the airport he had been sprayed with a chemical.
He died while being taken to a hospital.
Malaysia on Wednesday performed an autopsy over the strong objections of North Korea, which asserted sovereignty over the body of its citizen and says it should have a say in what happens next.
A Malaysian official with knowledge of the investigation said medical workers started a second autopsy on Friday night, because results of the first one were inconclusive.
He asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
However, senior Malaysian police official Abdul Samah Mat denied that the second autopsy had taken place.
He said the results of the first autopsy were not yet released.
North Korea vowed to reject the results of any post-mortem.
Speaking to reporters outside the morgue late on Friday, Pyongyang’s ambassador said Malaysian officials might be “trying to conceal something” and “colluding with hostile forces.”
While South Korea has blamed North Korea for a slew of notable assassinations or attempted killings in past decades, the North often denies involvement or simply does not comment.
The death of Kim, the exiled half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has unleashed a torrent of speculation, tales of intrigue and explosive, unconfirmed reports from dueling nations.
Malaysia has arrested four people so far, the latest a man carrying an ID that identified him as 46-year-old Ri Jong-chol. He was picked up on Friday night.
Authorities were still trying to piece together details of the case.
South Korea has accused its enemies in North Korea of dispatching a hit squad to kill Kim Jong-nam at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, saying two female assassins poisoned him and then fled in a taxi.
Malaysian police were questioning four suspects, Aisyah, another woman who carried a Vietnamese passport; a man they said is Aisyah’s boyfriend; and the North Korean man.
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