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(LEAD) Cause of Kim Jong-nam's death not yet determined: reports

2017/02/21 18:57

(ATTN: EXPANDS dateline; RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS more info throughout)

KUALA LUMPUR/SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- The cause of death for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half brother has yet to be determined though there is no evidence of a heart attack or puncture wounds, foreign media reports showed Tuesday.

Various specimens had been sent to experts who can shed light on Kim Jong-nam's death, the Associated Press reported, citing what Noor Hisham Abdullah, the Malaysian director general of health, told reporters.

Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of late former leader Kim Jong-il, died last week in an airport in Malaysia after being attacked by two Asian women with what appears to be poisonous substances. He was waiting for a flight to Macau where his home is located.

"We have to confirm with the lab report before we can make any conclusive remark," he was quoted as saying by AP, asked if there was any sign that he had been poisoned.

Malaysian police said Sunday they would give two weeks to Kim's next of kin to claim the body. No family members have come forward to identify his body, the report said.

Malaysian police arrested Ri Jong-chol, a 46-year-old North Korean man, in connection with the death of Kim Jong-nam on Friday following the arrest of three others, including the two women who seemingly attacked the deceased.

The police said they are searching for four more North Koreans who fled Malaysia on the same day of Kim's death.

North Korean top envoy to Malaysia Kang Chol denounced Malaysia's probe results showing that at least five North Korean suspects were allegedly involved in last week's death of Kim Jong-nam.

He accused Malaysia of "colluding and playing into the gallery of external forces," in its probe, referring to South Korea.

South Korea's unification ministry on Tuesday rejected North Korea's claim, calling it "preposterous and sophistic."

   "The envoy's comment on South Korea is a preposterous claim that is not even worth countering," a ministry official said.

A diplomatic row is deepening between North Korea and Malaysia over the death of Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of late former leader Kim Jong-il and the estranged half brother of Kim Jong-un.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak denounced Kang's comment, stressing that the probe would be fair.

"The statement by the ambassador was totally uncalled for. It was diplomatically rude. But Malaysia will stand firm," the prime minister was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Malaysia's foreign ministry said in a statement Monday that its government viewed the criticism by Kang as "baseless."

   South Korea said that it is highly likely that the North Korean regime is behind the latest killing, given Pyongyang's track record of committing terrorist attacks and inhumane acts.

Foreign media reports said that Kim Han-sol, the son of the murdered Kim, may have arrived in Malaysia on Monday from Macau, where Kim's mother and his sister Kim Sol-hui were hiding presumably under China's protection.

Remarks by Malaysian officials, however, hinted that Kim Han-sol might have not arrived in the country.