North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un ordered the assassination of his half-brother, who died Monday after being attacked at an airport in Malaysia, according to South Korea’s spy chief.
National Intelligence Service director Lee Byung-ho told South Korean lawmakers in a closed-door session that agents had tried to execute the leader’s order to kill Kim Jong-nam after coming to power in 2011, before succeeding this week, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The longstanding order has been executed,” Lee Cheol-woo, chairman of South Korea’s National Assembly Intelligence Committee, told a press briefing on Wednesday. “It reflects Kim Jong-un’s propensity for paranoia, rather than his calculated act of removing a threat to his rule.”
This came as Malaysian police detained a female suspect in the killing. The woman was holding Vietnam travel papers, Reuters reports.
Police also said they were looking for a “few” other foreign suspects in connection with the case.
South Korean lawmakers earlier cited their spy agency as saying it suspected two female North Korean agents had murdered Kim Jong-nam, and US government sources also said they believed North Korean assassins were responsible.
North Korean officials spent hours on Wednesday trying to talk Malaysia out of conducting an autopsy on Kim Jong Nam, three Malaysian government sources familiar with the stand-off told Reuters.
Malaysian authorities refused the request, the sources added, although no decision has been taken on whether the body will eventually be handed over to North Korea.
The portly and gregarious Kim Jong-nam, eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, was assaulted on Monday morning in the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport and died on the way to hospital, Malaysian police said.
The woman detained at Kuala Lumpur airport was identified from CCTV footage at the airport and was alone when she was apprehended, police said in a statement.
Media had earlier published a grainy CCTV-captured image of a young woman wearing a white shirt with the letters “LOL” on the front.
Documents she carried were in the name of Doan Thi Huong, showed a birth date of May 1998 and birthplace of Nam Dinh, Vietnam, police said.
“Police are looking for a few others, all foreigners,” deputy inspector-general Noor Rashid Ibrahim told Reuters, declining to give their nationalities or gender.
South Korean intelligence believes Kim Jong-nam was poisoned, according to lawmakers in the capital Seoul.
The spy agency told them that the North Korean leader had issued a “standing order” for his half-brother’s assassination, and that there had been a failed attempt in 2012.
“The cause of death is strongly suspected to be a poisoning attack,” said South Korean lawmaker Kim Byung-kee, who was briefed by the spy agency.
Kim Jong-nam had long suspected he could be the target of an assassination attempt; five years ago, he pleaded with his younger sibling to spare his life, according to two lawmakers in South Korea.
“We have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. We are well aware that the only way to escape is suicide,” Kim Jong-nam said in a letter to Kim Jong-un, one of the lawmakers said.
Kim had been at the airport’s budget terminal to catch a flight to Macau on Monday when someone grabbed or held his face from behind, after which he felt dizzy and sought help at an information desk, Malaysian police official Fadzil Ahmat said.
Malaysian media reports said two female agents splashed Kim’s face with a chemical. Reuters could not independently verify that detail.
According to South Korea’s spy agency, Kim Jong-nam had been living, under Beijing’s protection, with his second wife in the Chinese territory of Macau, lawmakers said. One of them said Kim Jong-nam also had a wife and son in Beijing.
Kim Jong-nam’s body was taken on Wednesday to a second hospital, where an autopsy was performed. There was no mention of Kim Jong-nam’s death in North Korean media.
In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesman said China was aware of the reports and closely following developments.
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