KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysian police on Sunday entered the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur in connection with last month’s murder of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, according to a Malaysian Chinese-language newspaper.
Four police officers, including the investigating officer of the murder, the Selangor state police chief and Selangor prosecution team officer, entered the embassy in the morning and were there for two and a half hours, China Press said, adding they were granted permission by the embassy to enter.
The entry indicates that a preliminary agreement may have been reached on processing the body of Kim Jong Nam, and on the recording of statements of three suspected accomplices in the murder believed to be hiding in the embassy, according to the report.
One of the three is Hyon Kwang Song, 44, the second secretary of the embassy.
Federal police chief Khalid Abu Bakar hinted that he would provide details of what transpired at the embassy at his next press conference.
China Press separately reported Sunday that the body may have been moved Sunday from the morgue of Kuala Lumpur Hospital, where it has been held.
It noted the “unusual scene” of an increased presence of plainclothes police at the morgue in conjunction with the arrival and departure of a hearse in the afternoon.
When contacted, a representative of the company that sent the hearse said it was engaged by a government official to transport a body. The representative said only driver knows the whereabouts of the body, and that they have been told not to divulge anything. Government officials are tight-lipped on the matter.
Earlier in the day, Malaysian officials indicated that talks with North Korea on thorny affairs plaguing bilateral relations following murder could wrap up “very soon.”
“Tomorrow, there will be an official statement to be issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about our negotiations with DPRK,” Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamid told reporters, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of the country.
In a separate event, Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said negotiations are currently underway involving the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Department on the Malaysian side and the North Korean government.
“I have been told they have made some decision but am confident that an announcement will be made very soon. The announcement can come as early as even today,” he was quoted as saying by the official news agency Bernama.
The remarks follow reports Saturday that former North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Ri Tong Il has returned to the Malaysian capital.
He first came to Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 28, some two weeks after Kim Jong Nam’s assassination, with the aim of repairing frayed ties after the North’s then ambassador, Kang Chol, sparked an uproar by accusing Malaysia of colluding with “hostile forces” like South Korea to tarnish Pyongyang’s image over the murder.
Two female suspects, an Indonesian and a Vietnamese, have been charged with murdering Kim Jong Nam using the highly toxic nerve agent VX, a banned chemical weapon. Authorities, however, believe that four North Koreans who fled the country on Feb. 13, the same day of the attack at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, are the masterminds.
In addition to the three suspected accomplices in the North Korean Embassy, the federal police chief said last week that the authorities believe that more North Koreans, including “an important person,” are involved.
Ri’s first mission to Kuala Lumpur ended miserably, with Malaysia expelling Kang Chol after the latter refused to retract his remarks and apologize. Pyongyang has even refused to even acknowledge the deceased was Kim Jong Nam, insisting on referring to him as Kim Chol, the name in the diplomatic passport found on the body.
Malaysia said the body of Kim Jong Nam was conclusively identified via DNA samples from his son.
During his previous trip, Ri had also sought to have the body sent to North Korea.
On March 5, both Kang Chol and Ri left Kuala Lumpur. Two days later, Pyongyang imposed an exit ban on the nine Malaysian citizens living there who are mostly embassy staff and their families. Malaysia reacted swiftly, banning the hundreds of North Koreans working here from leaving the country.
Just when it looked like Malaysia would cut off ties established over 40 years ago with Pyongyang, the government announced that it would hold talks instead with North Korea to resolve the issues.
A flurry of activity has been noted in the past two days as Ri was spotted back in Kuala Lumpur.
There were rumors that both sides have reached a decision on the remains of Kim Jong Nam, paving the way for the 45-year-old’s body to be given to Pyongyang. When asked about the rumors, Subramaniam merely said, “I don’t know as I was told a decision will be made soon. Most likely, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will make the announcement.”
He added that plenty of opportunities had been given to the next-of-kin to claim the body, and that if they do not turn up, the government will have to make a decision.
The police chief told reporters on March 16 that the family had given their consent to allow the Malaysian government to handle issues surrounding Kim Jong Nam’s remains.