Tags: North Korea | AS | Malaysia | North Korea

Morgue Reopens as Kim's Body Reportedly Leaves Malaysia

Image: Morgue Reopens as Kim's Body Reportedly Leaves Malaysia
Kim Jong Nam (Reuters)

Thursday, 30 Mar 2017 07:30 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian police on Thursday stopped guarding the morgue that has held the body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's murdered half brother, after a van departed amid reports that his remains would leave the country.

Shortly after the van left the hospital, police also departed and the morgue was reopened to the public. National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said "please wait" when asked whether Kim Jong Nam's body had left the morgue. Another government official said a statement would be issued soon. The morgue had earlier been guarded and its entrance sealed.

Local media said the van later arrived at Kuala Lumpur airport's cargo complex, where Kim's body was expected to be flown out.

Conflicting media reports said Kim's body would be flown to Beijing en route to North Korea, or to Macau, where his family is believed to be.

Custody of the body has been a flashpoint in the case as relations between Malaysia and North Korea deteriorated sharply.

Kim was poisoned on Feb. 13 in a crowded terminal at the airport. According to Malaysian investigators, two young women approached Kim as he waited for a flight and smeared VX nerve agent — a banned chemical weapon — on his face. He was dead within 20 minutes. North Korea, which is widely suspected to be behind the attack, has rejected the autopsy findings.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said late Wednesday that negotiations were "very sensitive" to ensure the safety of nine Malaysians — three embassy staff and six family members — who are stranded in North Korea's capital.

"What is important for us is the result. What we want to achieve is the safety of the Malaysians in Pyongyang and also maintain the image of Malaysia as a sovereign country which upholds the principle of rule of law," he said.

Relations between Malaysia and North Korea have badly frayed since Kim's death, with each expelling the other's ambassador. North Korea then blocked Malaysians from leaving the country until a "fair settlement" of the case is reached. Malaysia responded in kind, barring North Koreans from exiting its soil.

Experts say the VX nerve agent used to kill Kim was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory, and North Korea is widely believed to possess large quantities of chemical weapons.

North Korea has denied any role in the killing and denounced the investigation as flawed and politically motivated. North Korea does not even acknowledge the victim is Kim Jong Nam, referring to him instead as Kim Chol, the name on the passport he was carrying when he died.

North Korea has demanded custody of the body because the victim was one of its citizens. But Malaysia refused, in part because it needed to formally identify the body, which it now says it has done, using DNA from his son.

The two women accused of wiping Kim's face with the poison have been charged with murder. The two — an Indonesian and a Vietnamese — say they were duped into thinking they were taking part in a hidden-camera prank TV show.

Authorities also say they are looking for seven North Koreans. Four of them left Malaysia on the day of the killing and are likely back in North Korea. Police said the other three men are believed to be hiding in the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

   
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Malaysian police on Thursday stopped guarding the morgue that has held the body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's murdered half brother, after a van departed amid reports that his remains would leave the country....
AS, Malaysia, North Korea
557
2017-30-30
Thursday, 30 Mar 2017 07:30 AM
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