Malaysian assassination victim's identity confirmed by DNA

The son of Kim Jong Nam (inset) has provided DNA proving that the assassination victim at Kuala Lumpur airport is Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dear leader Kim Jong Un (Reuters photo)

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian police have confirmed that a man murdered last month in Kuala Lumpur International Airport is the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, based on DNA samples obtained from his child, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Wednesday.

Last Friday, police said they had established conclusively the dead man was 45-year-old Kim Jong Nam, but did not reveal how they confirmed the man's identity, citing "security" reasons.

North Korea has insisted that the man was Kim Chol, the name in the North Korean diplomatic passport he was travelling on.

According to Malaysian authorities, Kim Jong Nam died after two women smeared highly toxic nerve agent VX on his face. Many believe that North Korea orchestrated the assassination.

Kim Jong Nam had two wives and children living separately in Beijing and Macau, according to South Korea's intelligence agency. But their whereabouts since the murder is unknown.

Last Wednesday, however, a video emerged online of a man calling himself Kim Han Sol -- Kim Jong Nam had a son by that name -- and saying his father was "killed."

In the wake of the suspected assassination, there have been concerns over the safety of Kim Jong Nam's son, who called his uncle Kim Jong Un a dictator in a past media interview. The footage was uploaded to YouTube by a group called "Cheollima Civil Defense," which said it has been protecting the family.

Angered by Malaysia's handling of the incident, North Korea imposed an exit ban on Malaysian citizens in North Korea, prompting Malaysia to respond in kind.

According to Zahid, Malaysia has sought the return of nine of its citizens stranded in North Korea through high-level talks with North Korea since Monday.

Zahid told a press conference that the talks continue and Malaysia is "looking into all possibilities" to bring back the nine -- three embassy staff and six family members. Malaysia's Ambassador to North Korea Mohamad Nizan Mohamad was recalled by his government last month.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian police source and a local newspaper said Wednesday that police used jewellery worn by the victim as secondary evidence to identify the dead man.

Kim Jong Nam had two gold chains around his neck, one with a pendant engraved with family portraits which "links him directly to his next of kin," the New Straits Times newspaper said, adding that physical features such as tattoos and moles on the body also been useful.

The victim also wore a necklace with a pendant of Buddha, which is an accessory Kim Jong Nam was known to have been wearing in previous images of him, according to the newspaper.

The heightened diplomatic tension between North Korea and Malaysia has spilled over to a sports event, with the Asian Football Confederation announcing last Friday the postponement of the 2019 Asian Cup final round qualifier between North Korea and Malaysia scheduled for March 28 in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

The confederation said Wednesday a new date of June 8 has been set and it wants North Korea to find a "neutral venue" for the match by April 14, in the event diplomatic relations have not returned to normal. Malaysia has been requesting the change.

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