By: Zack Duvall
Malaysian officials announced Saturday yet another arrest related to the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother, and outspoken critic, of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The latest arrest, that of North Korean national Ri Jong Chol who was in Malaysia on a visa given to foreign workers, occurred on Friday night and comes as tensions between the two countries over the return of Nam’s body escalated.
Malaysian authorities reported that Nam was killed in a busy airport terminal while he was waiting to board a flight home to Macau, China where he was living with his family under the protection of the Chinese government. Medical officials involved with the investigation have said that they believe Nam was killed by a fast acting poison he was injected with at some point during his time in the terminal. However, an official autopsy report has not been finished.
Authorities had previously announced the arrest of two females both suspected of being involved in the murder, that many are calling a political assassination by the North Korean regime. Of the two female suspects, neither were Malaysian nationals. With one reportedly possessing Vietnamese travel documents and the other believed to be from Indonesia. Malaysian government sources indicated that they believed that at least three more suspects were still at large, but would not go into details about any information surrounding that claim.
Word of Nam’s murder, and the details surrounding it, quickly reached the highest levels of multiple world governments with political fallout towards the isolated North Korean regime beginning immediately.
China, long considered North Korea’s most important world partner, went so far as to ban imports of all North Korean coal effective February 19. China’s government offered no official statement or reason as to why the ban was being put into place, but the news comes as tensions between the Malaysian government and North Korea quickly escalated over possession of Nam’s body.
North Korea had initially tried to get the Malaysian government to surrender the body immediately after news of his death had spread. Malaysian officials declined the requests citing the need for an investigation to be done by Malaysian authorities on the grounds the murder occurred within Malaysian borders.
North Korean Ambassador, Kang Chol, held a press conference, after the denial by Malaysian officials to surrender the body, where he criticized the Malaysian authorities for what he said was “colluding with outside forces” in a very direct shot at rival, South Korea.
Ambassador Chol went on to re-affirm earlier statements by Pyongyang that North Korea would vehemently reject any and all autopsy findings.
“The Malaysian side forced the post-mortem without our permission and witnessing.” He stated.
“We will categorically reject the post-mortem reports.” He continued in a sign that Pyongyang and the North have no intention of backing down even in the face of further isolation.
The tensions between the two Asian countries come as somewhat of a shock to many experts in the area of Pacific nations and the relationships that the various nations share. Malaysia was one of the few world governments that, even in spite of new and recent world sanctions against the regime, had always maintained a good working relationship with the impoverished country.
The biggest factor in how this situation unfolds according to many is if China will maintain its ban on North Korean coal, which would cripple North Korean revenue numbers.
Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son of Kim Jong II and was born May 6, 1970. He leaves behind a wife and family.