North Korean dictator’s brother murdered in Kuala Lumpur airport

[Editor’s note: This was an audacious assassination with strong overtones of Cold War-era intelligence agency perfidy. The finger of blame is being pointed squarely at the pint-size North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un with the rationale that he is trying to cement his hold on the reins of power. 

The murder comes at the same time that North Korea is being condemned for carrying out a ballistic missile test in violation of UN resolutions. Ian]

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Al-Arabiya
Kim Jong Un’s brother ‘poisoned by female North Korean agents’

Malaysia has detained a woman holding a Vietnamese travel document in connection with the death of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, police said on Wednesday.

The woman, detained on Wednesday morning at the low-cost terminal of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in the Malaysian capital, was identified on the travel document as Doan Thi Huong, police said in a statement.

The “suspect was positively identified from the CCTV footage at the airport and was alone at the time of arrest,” they added.

South Korea’s spy agency suspects two female North Korean agents assassinated the estranged half-brother of the North Korean leader on Monday, South Korean lawmakers in Seoul have said.

The agency also said North Korea had long prepared for the murder of Kim Jong Nam, according to lawmakers, although they did not say how the agency knows that.

Kim was assassinated on his way to the Chinese territory of Macau, where he had been living, the lawmakers said, adding that he had been given China’s protection.

‘He pleaded for his life’

The half-brother of the North Korean leader pleaded for his life to be spared after a failed assassination bid in 2012, lawmakers briefed by Seoul’s spy chief said Wednesday.

Kim Jong-Nam died after reportedly being attacked by two women believed to be North Korean agents at a Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday.

Jong-Nam, the eldest son of the late former leader Kim Jong-Il, was once seen as heir apparent but fell out of favour following an embarrassing botched bid in 2001 to enter Japan on a forged passport and visit Disneyland.

He has since lived in virtual exile, mainly in the Chinese territory of Macau, while Jong-Un took over the isolated, nuclear-armed state after the death of his father in December 2011.

The North in 2012 tried to assassinate Jong-Nam — known to be a supporter of reform in Pyongyang — Seoul lawmakers said following a closed-door briefing by the chief of the National Intelligence Service, Lee Byung-Ho.

“According to (Lee)… there was one (assassination) bid in 2012, and Jong-Nam in April 2012 sent a letter to Jong-Un saying ‘Please spare me and my family,'” Kim Byung-Kee, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee, told reporters.

“It also said ‘We have nowhere to go… we know that the only way to escape is suicide’,” he said, adding Jong-Nam had little political support at home and posed little threat to Jong-Un.

Jong-Nam’s family — his former and current wives and three children — are currently living in Beijing and Macau, said another committee member, Lee Cheol-Woo.

“They are under the protection by the Chinese authorities,” he said, adding Jong-Nam had entered Malaysia on February 6, a week before his death.

Jong-Nam’s murder is the highest-profile death under the Kim Jong-Un’s regime since the execution of the leader’s uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, in December 2013.

Jang, known to be close to China and an advocate of economic reform in the North, was charged with treason.

Jong-Nam, believed to have ties with Beijing’s elite, was a relatively outspoken figure, publicly criticizing Pyongyang’s political system.

The 45-year-old said he “personally opposed” the hereditary power transfer in his own family, during an interview with Japan’s Asahi TV in 2010.

One of his sons — Han-Sol — also described his uncle, Jong-Un, as a “dictator” in a rare interview with a Finnish TV station in 2012 while he was studying in Europe.

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World Bulletin
Assassinated brother of N. Korea leader to undergo autopsy

The body of the assassinated half-brother of North Korea’s leader is to undergo an autopsy on Wednesday, police said as they searched for those responsible for the Cold War-style killing at a Malaysian airport.

Two women are believed to have used some kind of poison to kill Kim Jong-Nam, with reports from Malaysia and South Korea saying he had been stabbed with poison-tipped needles or had chemicals sprayed in his face.

The assassination, which came as North Korea readied to celebrate the birthday this week of the two men’s father, illustrates the “brutal and inhuman” nature of the Pyongyang regime led by Kim Jong-Un, Seoul said.

“He told the receptionist at the departure hall that someone had grabbed his face from behind and splashed some liquid on him,” Selangor state’s criminal investigation chief Fadzil Ahmat was reported as saying by Malaysia’s The Star newspaper.

“He asked for help and was immediately sent to the airport’s clinic. At this point, he was experiencing headache and was on the verge of passing out,” said Fadzil.

“At the clinic, the victim experienced a mild seizure. He was put into an ambulance and was being taken to the Putrajaya Hospital when he was pronounced dead,” he said.

South Korean reports had earlier suggested the two female assassins had used poison-tipped needles during the killing, before fleeing in a taxi.

Fall from grace

Kim had at one time been set to assume the leadership of his isolated country, but fell out of favour after an embarrassing attempt to get into Japan on a fake passport in 2001.

He has since lived in exile, mostly in the gambling haven of Macau, but he has also been spotted in other Asian countries and there have been reports of his playboy lifestyle.

Kim, 45, is believed to have been in Malaysia on a passport bearing the name Kim Chol, a known alias, according to South Korean media.

But Seoul on Wednesday confirmed that the dead man was a member of the Kim dynasty.

“Our government is certain that the murdered man is Kim Jong-Nam,” said Chung Joon-Hee, a spokesman for Seoul’s unification ministry that handles inter-Korea affairs.

“If confirmed, the murder of Kim Jong-Nam would be an example that shows the brutality and inhumane nature of the North Korean regime,” acting leader Hwang Kyo-Ahn told a meeting of top security officials earlier, according to his spokesman.

“We’re taking this incident very seriously and we’re keeping close tabs on the North”, Hwang said.

In Pyongyang, celebrations had begun for Thursday’s anniversary of the birth of Kim Jong-Il, Jong-Nam’s father, with no mention of the killing.

Around 3,000 uniformed government officials and women in traditional dresses gathered for an ice skating gala featuring North Korean and foreign skaters. Banners proclaiming “peace”, “independence” and “friendship” hung in the venue.

Kim’s killing is thought to be the highest-profile death under the Jong-Un regime since the execution of the leader’s uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, in December 2013.

Jong-Un has been trying to strengthen his grip on power in the face of growing international pressure over his country’s nuclear and missile programmes, and regular reports have emerged on purges and executions.

Jong-Nam, known as an advocate of reform in the North, once told a Japanese newspaper that he opposed his country’s dynastic system of power.

In a 2012 interview from his school in Bosnia, a 17-year-old Kim Han-Sol, Jong-Nam’s son, said his father had been passed over for succession because he “was not really interested in politics”.

“I don’t really know why he became a dictator,” Kim said of his uncle Kim Jong-Un. “It was between him and my grandfather.”

Cheong Seong-Chang of the independent Sejong Institute in Seoul said it was unlikely Jong-Un saw his elder brother as a potential competitor for power, but that his assassination was “unthinkable without a direct order or approval from Kim Jong-Un himself”.

His killing was likely motivated by a recent news report that Kim Jong-Nam had sought to defect to the EU, the US or South Korea as far back as in 2012, he said.

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