By Praveen Menon and Emily Chow
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – North Korean officials spent hours on Wednesday trying to talk Malaysia out of conducting an autopsy on Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother, who was murdered at Kuala Lumpur airport this week, three sources familiar with the stand-off told Reuters.
Malaysian authorities refused the request, said the sources, all Malaysian government officials. The events have not previously been reported by international media.
The body of Kim Jong Nam was taken in the morning to a hospital for investigations into his mysterious death. North Korean embassy officials followed, and were there so long that they ordered a meal from KFC, reporters at the hospital said.
According to information from Malaysian, South Korean and U.S. officials, Kim Jong Nam was poisoned in the departure hall of the airport by two North Korean female agents who fled in a taxi while he fell gravely ill and died en route to hospital.
Malaysian police said on Wednesday they had arrested a woman who was carrying Vietnamese travel papers and were looking for a “few” other foreign nationals in connection with the case.
Malaysian authorities refused a request from the North Koreans not to conduct an autopsy, said the three sources. They said no decision had been taken on whether the body would eventually be handed over to North Korea.
“Malaysia said it won’t be pressured into anything … we will stick to procedures,” one source said.
Journalists at the hospital said North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol, and colleagues arrived at the hospital in the early afternoon and remained there into the evening.
Police said that Kim Jong Nam, the gregarious eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, was at Kuala Lumpur airport’s budget terminal on Monday for a flight to Macau when someone grabbed his face from behind. He approached a help desk, saying he felt dizzy, and then his condition worsened.
According to local media reports, the two female agents splashed Kim’s face with a chemical.
Kim Jong Nam had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of North Korea, and had spent many years outside the reclusive state, traveling in Macau and Hong Kong as well as mainland China.
A Malaysian government said Kim Jong Nam had been in Malaysia several times before, likely on holidays.
Malaysia is one of a dwindling number of countries that has close relations with North Korea, which is under tightening global sanctions over its nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, the latest of which took place on Sunday. Malaysians and North Koreans can visit each other’s country without visas.
(Writing by John Chalmers, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)