KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — Pyongyang’s spokesman Ri Tong-il insisted today that its North Korean citizen died in Malaysia from heart failure instead of being poisoned by the VX nerve toxin as claimed by local police.
The former North Korean ambassador to the United Nations is here to claim the body of the man he named as “Kim Chol” based on the latter’s passport instead of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother to his country’s leader as the world media has identified.
“From the information we have, Kim Chol has... myocardial heart disease or heart disease. From time to time he has treatment while being hospitalised.
“In normal conditions, he cannot travel without medicine or cure of the heart disease in place,” Ri told a news conference outside the North Korean embassy here.
He also insisted that Kim’s death from heart failure was in line with the findings from Malaysia’s Health Ministry’s initial investigations.
“There was an announcement of the public Health Ministry of Malaysia while conducting post mortem examinations. There were belongings with medicine related to disease of diabetes and heart disease and high blood pressure.
“This is a strong indication that the cause of death is heart attack as, for the first time as soon as it occurred [as] concluded by Malaysian public Health Ministry,” Ri added.
He sought to pour cold water on the post mortem findings as issued by local police that VX was use, claiming international chemical experts were “unanimously” asking why the two women said to be Kim’s alleged attackers had not fallen victim to the deadly toxin.
“They are the first ones to have contact with this material. While the victim died, how did they survive?
“This is the question being raised unanimously by international chemical experts and the international community should answer this question,” he said.
The diplomat maintained that the North Korean delegation he is leading is willing to co-operate fully with local authorities on one condition.
“DPRK’s request is simple: return of deceased body as soon as possible,” he said, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by its initials.
Ri said that his government will only accept that VX toxin was used after international laboratory tests confirm it.
“The samples should be sent to OPCW’s office and in case it is proved by the two separate international labouratories, with the same conclusion, then they should come to identify who is the one who made it ,” he said referring to the Organisation of Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
He also said that South Korea’s allegations, that North Korea was behind the VX toxin and murder, was without basis and should not be considered.
“Why South Korea is trying so hard with great interest in this incident? They have great political interest to misuse it.
“They have a great political crisis in South Korea, and they need a great instance to divert people’s attention,” Ri said.
Kim died on February 13 shortly after his face was wiped with VX which has been known to be used as a bioweapon.
Two women, an Indonesian and a Vietnamese, were charged yesterday with his murder.
But police believe the masterminds to be North Koreans and are seeking seven, including one said to be a senior official at the embassy here.
One North Korean man, Ri Jong-chol, 47, currently under local police custody, will be deported to his home country tomorrow.