War of words after the killing of North Korea's Kim

2017-03-02 13:47
Kim Jong-Nam talking to security officials at the Kuala Lumpur terminal. (Fuji television via AP)

Kim Jong-Nam talking to security officials at the Kuala Lumpur terminal. (Fuji television via AP)

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Seoul - The murder of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's half-brother in a crowded Malaysian airport has made headlines worldwide, although not, in so many terms, in the North itself.

Kim Jong-Nam, 45, the eldest son of the North's late ruler Kim Jong-Il and once seen as his heir-apparent, had lived a life of exile in China after falling out of favour.

He died on February 13 after being attacked by two women from Indonesia and Vietnam, allegedly hired by the North's agents.

South Korea and Malaysia have blamed the North, while Pyongyang has angrily denied involvement and accused both of trying to frame it and "smear" its reputation.

Here are some comments from key figures in the unfolding drama:

South Korea slams 'paranoid' leader

A day after the assassination, Seoul's spy chief Lee Byung-Ho, told lawmakers that Kim had issued a "standing order" years ago to kill Jong-Nam, a plan driven by the young leader's "paranoid personality".

"The assassination, if confirmed done by the North, would be a sign of Kim Jong-Un's paranoid personality rather than a calculated move to remove a political threat," Lee was quoted as saying by lawmakers after a closed-door briefing.

"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,'" multiple lawmakers quoted Lee as saying.

The South Korean government has since criticised use of the banned nerve agent VX as an "act of terror" and a "blatant violation" of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

South Korean foreign minister Yu Byung-Se described the murder as "a wake-up call... to North Korea's chemical weapons capability and its intent to actually use them".

"In the wake of this heinous act of using chemical weapons in Malaysia, we have to seriously consider what steps we should take in the coming weeks and months," he said.

Malaysia fumes 

The rare, Cold War-style murder triggered widespread anger in Malaysia and sent diplomatic tensions with Pyongyang, with which it has unusually strong ties, soaring. Kuala Lumpur on Thursday cancelled a visa-free travel deal with North Korea.

Earlier, it recalled its ambassador to Pyongyang in protest and summoned Kang Chol, the North Korean ambassador to Malaysia, for questioning by police, which Kang has so far has refused.

"The ambassador has been informed of the process involved (in the police probe) but he continues to be delusional and spew lies and accusations against the government of Malaysia," Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Aman said last week.

Malaysia's health minister confirmed that Jong-Nam would have suffered a "very painful death" after the attack, dying within 15 to 20 minutes.

The two women, who have been indicted, shoved something onto Jong-Nam's face, according to leaked CCTV footage.

"I am outraged that the criminals used such a dangerous chemical in a public area," Malaysian Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said last week as angry protestors waved a banner reading "Respect Malaysia" outside the North Korean embassy.

North Korea blames 'smear campaign' 

So far the North has not confirmed the identity of the victim, referring to him only by a pseudonym he used, Kim Chol, and as a citizen who carried a diplomatic passport.

For more than a week after it happened, the North's official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) made no reference to the killing, and when it did, it condemned a Malaysian autopsy as "illegal and immoral" and demanded the body be handed over.

The North maintained there was no clear evidence blaming it for the murder and accused the South, the US and Malaysia of framing Pyongyang as part of a "smear campaign" against the nation and its leader.

"The reckless moves of the US and the South Korean authorities are aimed to meet the dangerous political purpose to tarnish the image of the dignified DPRK and bring down the social system in it," KCNA said this week, using the North's official name.

"This being a hard fact, the US and the South Korean authorities are kicking up an anti-DPRK smear campaign, groundlessly pulling it up," it said.

China, which is the North's sole major ally and economic lifeline, but is increasingly frustrated, has banned all coal imports from its neighbour for the rest of this year.

The North did not release an official response, but an essay published by KCNA lashed out at Beijing's "mean behaviour", saying it was "styling itself a big power" but "dancing to the tune of the US".

Read more on:    kim jong-un  |  south korea  |  assasination

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