Malaysia is protecting its “sovereignty and dignity” by expelling the North Korean ambassador, the Malaysian prime minister said yesterday, as relations between the countries unraveled over the poisoning of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader.
In an attack many believe was orchestrated by North Korea, Kim died less than 20 minutes after two women wiped VX nerve agent on his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13, authorities say.
The women, one from Vietnam and one from Indonesia, have been charged with murder.
North Korea has denied any role in the killing and accused Malaysia of conspiring with its enemies.
North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol has rejected a Malaysian autopsy that found Kim was killed with VX, a banned chemical weapon.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday said the decision to expel Kang sent a clear message.
“It means that we are firm in defending our sovereignty and dignity,” Najib said. “Don’t ever insult our country and don’t try to cause disruptions here.”
Malaysian authorities declared Kang persona non grata on Saturday and gave him two days to leave the country.
He arrived late yesterday afternoon at the Kuala Lumpur airport, where he told reporters that Malaysia was doing “great harm” to the countries’ relations.
Malaysia’s finding that VX killed Kim boosted speculation that North Korea was somehow behind the attack.
Experts say the oily poison was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory and North Korea is widely believed to possess large quantities of chemical weapons, including VX.
North Korea is trying to retrieve Kim’s body, but has not acknowledged that the victim is Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, as Malaysian government officials have confirmed.
Ri Tong-il, a former North Korean deputy ambassador to the UN, has said Kim probably died of a heart attack because he suffered from heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Malaysian Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said pathologists have ruled that out.
“We are saying, based on autopsy findings, there was no heart attack,” he told reporters at Parliament.
Still, a lawyer for the Vietnamese suspect said news of existing health problems should be cause for a new autopsy.
“I am writing to the attorney general tomorrow for a second post-mortem,” attorney Selvam Shanmugam, who represents Doan Thi Huong, yesterday said outside the Vietnamese embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
“They should have a foreign forensic [team] to participate in the post-mortem,” he said.
The two women accused of poisoning Kim say they were duped into thinking they were taking part in a harmless prank.
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