KUALA, LUMPUR/MANILA – Japan provided Malaysia with fingerprint data for Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to help with the investigation into his murder last month at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, according to sources close to the matter.
The data was obtained when immigration officials detained him in 2001 at Narita International Airport as he tried to enter the country on a false passport. He told the authorities he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
The disclosure marks the first time Japanese assistance has come to light in the investigation into the fatal poison attack, which is widely believed to have been orchestrated by North Korea.
The United States and other countries are also believed to have been involved in the probe or lent a hand in the protection of family members fearful they might be targeted next by the regime.
The identity of the deceased has been among the contentious issues between Malaysia and North Korea, whose once-cozy ties have sharply deteriorated in the wake of the incident.
North Korea has referred to the deceased only as Kim Chol, the name that appeared in the diplomatic passport he was traveling on when he died. It also insists that he died from a heart attack.
According to the sources, immediately following the attack at the airport, in which two women smeared the deadly nerve agent VX on his face, Malaysian authorities did not initially recognize him as Kim Jong Nam and contacted the South Korean Embassy before notifying the North Korean Embassy.
Japan offered data on Kim Jong Nam’s physical characteristics, such as fingerprints and mug shots, the sources said Sunday.
The information is believed to have helped Malaysian investigators conclusively establish the victim’s identity as that of the 45-year-old half brother of the North Korean leader.
The sources said Malaysia also made inquiries to Japan around Feb. 22 regarding the location of Kim Jong Nam’s son, Kim Han Sol, who is believed to have been living in Macau.
Kim Han Sol was seen as key to identifying the body, with Malaysian authorities trying to collect DNA samples from family members to help finalize the identification procedure.
Without revealing how the identity was confirmed, citing “security” reasons, Malaysian national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar announced Friday that they made a final confirmation that the body is that of Kim Jong Nam.
A police source said DNA samples were obtained through a “special way.”
The whereabouts of Kim Han Sol and other family members remain unknown, but a video emerged online last Wednesday of a man claiming to be Kim Han Sol and saying his father was “killed.”
The footage was uploaded to YouTube by a group called Cheollima Civil Defense, which said it has been protecting Kim Jong Nam’s family.
The group also said in a statement that their activities were supported by the Netherlands, China, the United States and another country it did not name.
In the wake of the suspected assassination of Kim Jong Nam, there have been concerns over the safety of his son, who called his uncle, Kim Jong Un, a dictator during a media interview in the past.