A diplomatic row between North Korea and Malaysia is deepening as Pyongyang blamed the Southeast Asian country for its probe into the death of the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, experts said Thursday.
In its first official response, North Korea said that Malaysia colluded with South Korea in its investigation into the killing of Kim Jong-nam, claiming that Seoul is masterminding an anti-North Korea conspiracy.
Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur have maintained diplomatic ties for more than 40 years and each have an embassy in the other's country.
Malaysia has been used as a venue for unofficial talks among former US officials and North Korean diplomats.
But Kim's death has raised diplomatic tension between the two after Malaysian police said eight North Koreans including a diplomat are suspected of being involved in his death.
Kim Jong-nam, the first son of former late leader Kim Jong-il, was killed at an airport in Malaysia on Feb. 13 after two Asian women wiped unidentified toxic substances on his face. He was waiting for a flight to Macau where he lived.
Malaysian police said that four suspects who fled Malaysia on the day of Kim's death are believed to have escaped to Pyongyang.
|This picture compiled with photos released by European news photo agency EPA on Feb. 22, 2017, shows three North Korean suspects who are at large in Malaysia in connection to the death of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. |
Hyon Kwang-song (R),44, is the second secretary of the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The next photos show a 30-year-old man identified as Ri Ji-u (C) and Kim Uk-il (L), a 37-year-old employee at Air Koryo, the North's flag carrier. (Yonhap)
They arrested a North Korean man last week while looking for three others including diplomat Hyon Kwang-song and Kim Uk-il, an employee at Air Koryo, the North's flag carrier.
Malaysia has called on the North Korean Embassy to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
The Telegraph of Britain reported that the two newly identified suspects -- Song and Kim -- are believed to be "hiding" inside Pyongyang's embassy in Malaysia. It said Hyon is "the supervisor of the whole plot," citing a Malaysian security source.
It is high likely that North Korea will not respond to Malaysia's request, given that a diplomat is usually granted immunity from prosecution in their host country.
A source said that Hyon, the second secretary at the embassy, could be a disguised agent dispatched by North Korea's ministry of state security which is in charge of secret policing and surveillance.
"North Korea is believed to give the title of second secretary to an agent in overseas missions sent by its security ministry," said a former South Korean diplomat.
Hyon, 44, was caught on CCTV sending off the four suspects who escaped to North Korea at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Singapore's Channel NewsAsia reported, citing a police source. It said there was also the staff from Air Koryo at the airport. (Yonhap)