Malaysia, North Korea reach agreement in Kim's killing row

On Thursday, Malaysia agreed to send to North Korea the body of Kim, who was killed last month in Malaysia by two Asian women who smeared the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent on his face.

"Both countries agreed to lift the travel ban imposed on citizens of the other country and guarantee their safety and security, " said a statement from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency.

Malaysia's police chief has declined to say who in Kim Jong Nam's family wrote the letter asking that his body be brought back to North Korea.

Najib said in a statement that Malaysia would also "allow North Koreans to leave Malaysia" as part of the agreement. "And I believe that if North Korea wants a transparent investigation, they should cooperate with us and hand over to us the four", Khalid said.

In addition, two North Koreans suspected of involvement in the murder also left Malaysia for Pyongyang on the same plane with the body.

Malaysia has released the body of the assassinated half-brother of North Korea's leader following negotiations with Pyongyang.

Malaysia, outraged by the brazen act of murder, sought several North Korean nationals, including a diplomat, for questioning.

A suspect in the Kim Jong-nam murder case was confronted on the plane "Did you take part in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam?"

"We did not have concrete evidence to arrest them".

Malaysia had said it would release the body only to next of kin but that none had stepped forward.

There were no details on what led to the breakthrough, but North Korea appeared to win some important concessions: Custody of the body and the release of at least two suspects who had been holed up in its embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The three North Koreans and the remains of Kim Jong Nam returned to North Korea on Friday via Beijing in a swap deal that saw the nine Malaysians allowed to return home. Kim's wife and children, who were living in exile in the Chinese territory of Macau, staged a vanishing act after the murder and are believed to be in hiding.

Malaysia, which had previously friendly ties with the unpredictable nuclear-armed state, responded with a ban of its own, but was left with little option but to accede to North Korea's demands for the return of the body and safe passage for the three nationals hiding in the embassy.

Another attempt to kill the elder Park, by an ethnic Korean-Japanese who was a North Korean sympathizer, was thwarted in the Seoul National Theater in 1974, but a stray bullet hit and killed Park Guen-hye's mother.

"This is not the first time North Korea has engaged in illicit activities, including kidnapping and murder, abroad", said Daniel Pinkston, a professor of worldwide relations at Troy University in Seoul.

Kang Chol was expelled and the Malaysian ambassador to North Korea was also recalled.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is now on an official visit in India, issued a statement announcing the return of the body, but did not mention Kim by name.

Malaysia expressed outrage earlier this month over what it described as North Korea holding its citizens hostage.

  • Leroy Wright