South Korea says North Korean ministries
organized assassination in Malaysia
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[February 27, 2017]
By Ju-min Park
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean intelligence
believes suspects wanted for the murder of the half-brother of North
Korea's leader included several officials who worked for the reclusive
state's foreign and security ministries, according to lawmakers in
Kim Jong Nam was killed earlier this month at a Malaysian airport by
assassins using VX nerve agent, a chemical capable of killing in minutes
and listed by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.
South Korea is acutely sensitive to developments in its unpredictable
nuclear-armed neighbor, and intelligence agency officials have briefed
lawmakers on the sensational killing of the estranged half-brother of
the North's leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korea has not acknowledged the victim is Kim Jong Nam. But South
Korean and U.S. officials believe Kim, who had criticized his family's
control of the isolated state, was assassinated by agents of the North.
"Among eight suspects in this case four are from the ministry of state
security and two who actually took action are from the foreign
ministry," Lee Cheol-woo, one of the lawmakers briefed by South Korean
intelligence, told reporters.
"That is why it is a case of terrorism led by the state, directly
organized by the ministry of state security and the foreign ministry,"
Malaysian police have identified a total of eight North Koreans as
suspects or as wanted for questioning. These include a North Korean
embassy official believed to still be in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia's health minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said on Sunday that
Kim Jong Nam died within 15-20 minutes of being assaulted by two women
who are believed to have smeared VX on his face.
He had been at Kuala Lumpur International airport to catch a flight to
Macau, the Chinese territory where he had been living under Beijing's
The women, Indonesian and Vietnamese citizens, are in police custody and
have told officials from their respective embassies that they believed
they were taking part in a TV prank.
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Kim Jong Nam arrives at Beijing airport in Beijing, China, in this
photo taken by Kyodo February 11, 2007. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via
Another South Korean lawmaker briefed by the intelligence agency,
Kim Byung-kee, said the North Koreans had operated in three teams.
Two teams, each including officials from both North Korea's state
security and foreign ministries, were responsible for hiring women
in Indonesia and Vietnam and bringing them to Malaysia to carry out
the attack. The third team provided "support".
He said South Korean intelligence said the North's embassy official
in Kuala Lumpur, Hyon Kwang Song, was linked to the state security
ministry and part of the support team.
Malaysian police have said they may issue an arrest warrant for the
diplomat if he does not cooperate, but it is unclear if they can do
so given he has diplomatic immunity.
The one North Korean in police custody, Ri Jong Chol, was also
believed to have been part of the support team, said Kim Byung-kee.
Malaysian authorities have not commented on the roles that any of
the North Koreans played in the killing.
The investigation into the killing, and Malaysia's refusal to hand
over the body to North Korea before it is officially identified by
the victim's next of kin, has caused a diplomatic rift between two
hitherto friendly governments.
(Additional reporting by Jack Kim; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor;
Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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