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Malaysia reportedly in negotiation with North

Mar 29,2017
While Malaysia remains tight-lipped about what it plans to do with the body of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who was killed on Feb. 13 at a Malaysian airport, a newspaper in Malaysia reported Monday that the government has decided to hand the corpse over to North Korea soon.

China Press, a Chinese-language newspaper circulated in the Southeast Asian country, reported that the Malaysian government agreed not to cremate the body and hand it over to them as it currently is. Authorities also said they would allow the three North Korean suspects who are now in the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to leave the country without facing criminal charges, according to the paper.

The report could not be verified because Malaysia has yet to announce their official plans. Malaysia’s health minister said Sunday that the government will make a decision on what to do with the dead body and share it with media “very, very soon,” according to Bernama, a media group in Malaysia.

It’s likely that Malaysia’s deputy prime minister will deliver the announcement, the health minister added, although a timeline was not given.

The health minister said court trials for the Indonesian and Vietnamese women, however, who were charged with murdering Kim Jong-nam, will continue as planned.

The transferring of the body comes after Kim Jong-nam’s family gave permission to Malaysian authorities to manage his remains. North Korea had been urging the country to hand it over to them, while refusing to acknowledge that the dead man was their leader’s half brother. Malaysia had initially refused, causing diplomatic relations to sour. The two countries banned each other’s citizens from leaving their countries and both of their ambassadors were recalled.

Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, was killed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13 by the two women, who smeared his face with VX nerve agent, which is banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

They, along with eight other North Korean men, have been identified as key suspects. Among the eight North Koreans, four are believed to have gone back to Pyongyang on the day of the murder. One man, Ri Jong-chol, was arrested by Malaysian police but later extradited. Three suspects, including a North Korean diplomat and an employee for Pyongyang’s state-run flag carrier, Koryo Air, are suspected to be hiding in the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian police raised the possibility last week of even more suspects.

“I can’t reveal much but there are several more people we are going after,” Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysia’s inspector general of police, was quoted as saying by The Star, a Malaysian newspaper.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]