Kim Jong-nam Assasination: North Korean Suspect Ri Jong-chol Says He Is Victim of Conspiracy
Ri Jong-chol, the North Korean suspect questioned in connection with the death of Kim Jong-nam, has said he was the victim of a conspiracy by the Malaysian authorities.
The suspect said his detention was a “plot” to “damage the honor of the republic”, Reuters reports.
Ri Jong-chol made the comments outside the North Korea embassy in Beijing after he was deported from Malaysia on March 3.
He was released from police custody due to insufficient evidence.
Speaking to reporters early on March 4, Ri Jong-chol accused Malaysian investigators of using coercion in an attempt to extract a confession.
He said: “If I just accept everything, they will make arrangements for a good life in Malaysia.”
Ri Jong-chol added: “This is when I realized that it was a trap. It was a trap to bring down the reputation of my country.”
When questioned about reports of a car discovered near the airport said to be registered in his name, Ri Jong-chol said: “It was in my car garage. Malaysian police accepted this too.”
He admitted to investigators that he was an expert in chemistry, but said that he worked in Malaysia “importing ingredients needed for soap”.
Malaysian authorities are continuing their investigation into the death of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who was killed with nerve agent VX at a Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13.
Ri Jong-chol, who said he was not at the airport on the day of the incident, was the only North Korean held in connection with the death.
Malaysia is seeking to question several North Koreans, including an embassy official.
Two women, Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam and Siti Aisyah from Indonesia, were charged on March 2 with killing Kim Jong-nam by smearing his face with VX, a banned chemical weapon.
Both women said they thought they were taking part in a TV prank. They have yet to make a formal plea in their case.
Malaysia, which has condemned the use of the powerful nerve agent in the attack, is also investigating a company thought to be used by North Korea to evade sanctions on military exports.
According to Reuters, Ri Jong-chol had lived in Malaysia for three years, but his work permit expired on February 6.
Malaysia’s immigration director-general Mustafar Ali said Ri Jong-chol, who was escorted out of the country by two North Korean embassy officials, was blacklisted from re-entering the country.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian government said it had launched an investigation into a company called Glocom, which has been operating in the country for several years.
According to a confidential UN report, Glocom is run by North Korea’s top intelligence agency to sell military communications equipment, in violation of United Nations sanctions.
On March 3, Malaysian police said that an arrest warrant had been issued for 37-year-old Kim Uk-il, who works for North Korean national airline Air Koryo. He is believed to be still in Malaysia.
Security checks on North Koreans had been stepped up at all border crossings to prevent them from leaving, Reuters reported.
On March 2, Malaysia announced it was cancelling visa-free travel for visiting North Koreans, citing security reasons.
It has not directly blamed North Korea for the attack, but there is widespread suspicion Pyongyang was responsible.
North Korea has strongly rejected the allegations. Pyonyang also rejected the findings of the post-mortem examination, having objected to it being carried out at all, and has demanded the body be handed over to them.
It has not yet confirmed that the body is that of Kim Jong-nam, acknowledging him only as a North Korean citizen.
Kim Jong-nam was traveling using a passport under a different name.