Dec. 11 (UPI) -- North Korea offered an informal apology to Vietnam for the assassination last year of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to multiple South Korean press reports.
Citing an unidentified South Korean diplomatic official in Vietnam, Newsis reported Tuesday the apology was issued during North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho's visit to Hanoi last week, when he met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and exchanged views with Pham Binh Minh, Vietnam's foreign minister and deputy prime minister.
A man identified as Ri Ji Hyon, the son of a North Korean diplomat, reportedly lured one of the defendants, Doan Thi Huong, currently held responsible for smearing a toxic VX nerve agent on Kim's face at an airport in Kuala Lumpur.
Ri's father is Ri Heung, a former North Korean ambassador to Vietnam, according to South Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily.
The younger Ri was "fluent" in Vietnamese and approached Huong, who at the time was aspiring to become a celebrity, according to the JoongAng.
Huong and a second defendant, the Indonesian national Siti Aisyah, have said they were led to believe they were taking part in a prank for a reality television show. A Malaysian high court judge has said the assassination was a "well-planned conspiracy."
Ri used his father's position in government to make his way through Vietnam and recruit Huong. Ri was previously identified by Malaysian police as one of four North Korean suspects who were at the airport at the time of the February 2017 assassination.
The assassination caused uproar in Vietnam, and angered the Vietnamese government. Hanoi may have even considered severing diplomatic ties with Pyongyang in the aftermath of the murder, according to South Korean press reports.
The JoongAng's diplomatic source said the apology was issued informally in order to avoid implicating the North Korean government in the assassination.
Pyongyang has formally denied any involvement.