North Korean diplomats had tried to persuade Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of the North's leader Kim Jong-un, to return home voluntarily shortly before he was killed at an airport in Malaysia earlier this week, a US broadcaster reported Thursday, citing a unnamed North Korean official.
The official told Radio Free Asia that the current leader had ordered the State Security Ministry to bring Kim Jong-nam, who was staying overseas, back to the North, instructing its diplomats to talk him into coming back home on his own without making a fuss.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) waves in a photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency in November 2016 and his half brother Kim Jong-nam waves at a hotel in Macau, China, in a 2010 photo provided by the JoongAng Sunday paper. (For Use only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)
To carry out the order, officials from the ministry met Kim Jong-nam in Macau on Jan. 20 and Kim asked them to give him some time to think about the younger brother's request, according to the report.
"Kim Jong-un was apparently worried about Kim Jong-nam fleeing to the United States or South Korea out of fear of being killed," the official was quoted as saying. "Kim Jong-un is believed to have ordered that Kim Jong-nam to be assassinated before he sought asylum overseas."
A source with knowledge of North Korean affairs told RFA that Kim Jong-un had the North's diplomats overseas meet Kim Jong-nam twice -- late last year and early this year. On a separate occasion, a North Korean official stationed in Laos gave Kim Jong-nam a letter from the current leader after meeting him in person, the source said.
The leader is believed to have attempted to cajole him into returning home, but Kim Jong-nam's failure to give a definite answer apparently led to the fratricidal order, according to the source.
Kim was killed on Monday at Kuala Lumpur International Airport after being attacked by two unidentified women with poison. Seoul's spy agency on Wednesday confirmed the killing of Kim, stopping short of saying that North Korea was behind the latest killing.
But it said that the murder of Kim Jong-nam has been a "standing order" issued by Kim Jong-un since he inherited power in late 2011 following the sudden death of his father.
Kim Jong-nam -- the eldest son of Kim Jong-il -- was once an heir apparent, but he had been living in foreign countries for years after apparently falling out of favor with his father for attempting to enter Japan with a fake passport in 2001. (Yonhap)