(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KCNA AND YONHAP NORTH KOREAN NEWS AGENCIES)
(3rd LD) Malaysia agrees to send body of Kim Jong-nam to N. Korea
(ATTN: UPDATES with body arriving in Beijing)
SEOUL/BEIJING, March 31 (Yonhap) — Malaysia released the body of the slain half brother of North Korea’s leader to the North, ending a diplomatic row between the two countries over Kim Jong-nam’s death.
“Malaysia agreed to facilitate the transfer of the body to the family of the deceased in North Korea,” according to a joint statement between North Korea and Malaysia carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The deceased refers to Kim Jong-nam, who was killed last month in Malaysia after two Asian women smeared the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent on his face.
The agreement also called for lifting a travel ban imposed on citizens staying in each other’s countries, the KCNA said.
Under the deal, Kim’s body as well as those of two North Korean diplomats suspected of involvement in the killing left Kuala Lumpur on a Malaysia Airlines Flight 360 Thursday afternoon and arrived in Beijing around 2 a.m. Friday. The North Korean diplomats were seen leaving the airport in a black limousine.
The officials and Kim’s body are expected to leave for Pyongyang on an Air Koryo flight as early as on Saturday.
Malaysian police earlier said that eight North Koreans are suspected of being involved in the killing. North Korea claimed that Malaysia colluded with South Korea to manipulate the probe.
North Korea imposed a temporary exit ban on Malaysians staying in the North, saying that the move will be effective until the row over his death is resolved. In a tit-for-tat action, Malaysia banned North Korean diplomats from leaving the country.
“This would allow the nine Malaysians presently in Pyongyang to return to Malaysia and (North Korean) citizens in Kuala Lumpur to depart Malaysia,” the KCNA said.
Both countries decided to patch up their frayed ties as they reaffirmed the importance of their relations which were established in 1973, it added.
“In this connection, both countries agreed to positively discuss the re-introduction of the visa-free system and work towards bringing the relations to a higher level,” it said.
Malaysia canceled its visa-waiver program with North Korea and kicked out North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol in retaliation for North Korea’s “diplomatically rude” remarks.
Pyongyang claimed that the dead man is Kim Chol, the name on a passport held by Kim Jong-nam. It said that a North Korean citizen carrying a diplomatic passport fell into a state of “shock,” without making any references to his identity.
Seoul has claimed that North Korea is behind the killing, saying that the North’s leader has issued a standing order to kill his brother since he assumed power in 2011.
Out of the eight North Korean suspects, four fled Malaysia on the day of Kim’s death. Kim Jong-chol, who was earlier taken into custody, was released.
Malaysian police have been looking for three suspects including a diplomat believed to be hiding at the North Korean Embassy in Malaysia.