NORTH KOREAN agents are reportedly carrying out their own investigation into the murder of Kim Jong Nam – and they are said to be doing it in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital where the estranged half-brother of the reclusive regime’s leader Kim Jong Un was killed last month.
According to Channel News Asia, the North Korean investigators began looking into the incident themselves after Malaysian police rejected their request for a joint probe into the assassination.
The agents — the report said in quoting a beauty salon proprietor in a Kuala Lumpur suburb who declined to be named — have been visiting several businesses and locations in the city.
Among others, the agents went to places linked to 25-year-old Indonesian national Siti Aisyah, one the murder suspects in the case who claimed she thought she was taking part in a prank for a reality television show.
“They (North Korean agents) have been going from shop to shop, asking about Siti’s friends… They said they were from Pyongyang and investigating a political plot,” the salon proprietor was quoted as saying.
Malaysia’s investigation into the killing has sparked diplomatic tensions with North Korea and triggered a Mexican standoff between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang, after the latter prevented a group of nine Malaysian embassy officials and their family members from leaving the reclusive state.
Siti Aishah, a mother of one from Jakarta, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, from rural northern Vietnam, face the mandatory death sentence if they are convicted for the killing that took place at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb 13.
Security camera footage, which has been released in the media, showed the two women approaching Jong Nam at the airport departure hall and rubbing a cloth over his face. The victim was then seen stumbling into a clinic. He reportedly died within 20 minutes of the assault.
Reports have suggested that the two may well have been members of an elite group of female special agents employed by North Korea as spies. North Korea has for over half a century been training young women to kill, maim, coerce, blackmail and have sex with targets through its “honey trap” spy programme.
The female agents, who are selected for their intelligence and beauty, receive up to eight years of training in secret camps in the mountains of North Korea.
North Korea insisted that the deceased was one of its citizens named ‘Kim Chol’ as per the name on the North Korean passport the man was carrying when he died. Officials from the regime have also asserted that the man died of a heart attack and not of poisoning from the highly toxic VX nerve agent.
However, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said last week that authorities confirmed the identity of Jong Nam’s body based on a DNA sample taken from one of his children.
The brazen spy-novel-like murder of Jong Nam has also raised concerns that Malaysia has been serving as a regional hub for North Korea’s global spy network.
It has also led to suggestions that Malaysia may have violated UN sanctions on North Korea, a claim the former has denied.
On Monday, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said Malaysia intercepted and returned a shipment of North Korean military communications equipment sent to Thailand in 2011, amid growing scrutiny of Malaysia’s dealings with North Korea.
He said authorities at Port Klang outside Kuala Lumpur had seized 250 kg (551 lbs) of the equipment, manufactured by Glocom, identified in a Reuters report as running an arms operation out of Malaysia.
The shipment’s intended recipient, however, could not be traced and the equipment was returned to Pyongyang, Khalid told reporters at a news conference in the southern state of Johor, bordering Singapore.
“After investigations, the recipient in Thailand was found not to exist,” he said in a video recording of the conference seen by Reuters.
“So we blocked the shipment from entering Malaysia and from being sent to Thailand.”
Last month, Reuters reported that North Korean intelligence ran an arms operation out of Malaysia called Glocom, using two front companies identified as International Global System and International Golden Services.
Additional reporting by Reuters