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Malaysian envoy to North Korea recalled after Kim Jong Nam slaying

By Elizabeth Shim
Malaysian envoy to North Korea recalled after Kim Jong Nam slaying
Television in South Korean shows breaking news about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, Kim Jong Nam. Seoul said Tuesday a diplomatic measure would be taken in response. Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Malaysia's ambassador to North Korea was returning home Tuesday after being recalled, as relations between the two countries take a hit following the assassination of the older half-brother of Kim Jong Un.

Mohamad Nizan, Malaysia's top envoy to Pyongyang, was seen in transit at Beijing Capital International Airport on Tuesday, South Korean television network SBS reported.

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Mohamad said he can assure the public of the impartiality of investigations into the case because "there is no reason for us to be sided with anybody."

Friction began last week when Malaysia reversed an earlier decision to unconditionally repatriate Kim Jong Nam's body to Pyongyang.

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Authorities in Kuala Lumpur said a family DNA sample must be provided for the body to be released to North Korea, a move that then drew accusations from the North Korean embassy that the Malaysian government is colluding with South Korea on the autopsy.

North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol had also claimed Kim Jong Nam, who was 45, had died of natural causes.

Similar comments drew a rebuttal from the Malaysian foreign minister who said North Korea's allegations were "culled from delusions, lies and half-truths."

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Airport surveillance footage released this week shows Kim Jong Nam being clearly attacked by two women at a Kuala Lumpur airport.

South Korea's foreign ministry has pledged to take a diplomatic measure in response to the attack, local news service Money Today reported.

Foreign ministry spokesman Cho Joon-hyuk told reporters Seoul is sending an envoy to attend the meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva to address the issue of North Korea rights violations.

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South Korea expects discussions with the United States on designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, Cho said.

Fear is running high in the North Korea defector community that another high-profile North Korean figure could be the next target of assassination.

Kim Pyong Il, half-brother of Kim Jong Il, the former leader, and Pyongyang's ambassador to the Czech Republic, could be the next victim, according to Hong Kong commentator Lee Yau-kei.

He could pose a political threat to Kim Jong Un, according to South Korean press reports.

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