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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.


North Korean national Ri Jong-chol, who was held by Malaysia in connection with the death of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, is to be released and deported on March 3.

Malaysia’s Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali said Ri Jong-chol was “a free man” as there was “insufficient evidence to charge him”.

Kim Jong-nam died on February 13 minutes after being poisoned with VX nerve agent.

Two women were charged with his murder on March 1.

Malaysia is seeking to question several North Koreans, including an embassy official, suspected of being involved in the murder.

Also on March 2, Malaysia announced it was ending visa-free travel for North Koreans, citing security reasons.

North Koreans can currently visit Malaysia for up to 30 days without securing a visa, under a reciprocal deal.

However, Deputy PM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has said that is changing as of March 6, the Bernama state news agency reports.

Kim Jong-nam Assassination: Two Women to Be Charged with Murder

Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam and Siti Aisyah from Indonesia are accused of smearing the nerve agent on Kim Jong-nam’s face while he was preparing to fly out of the budget airport in Kuala Lumpur.

Ri Jong-chol, who has lived in Malaysia for the last three years, was arrested four days later. Police did not provide details on why he had been detained.

On March 2, officials said Ri Jong-chol will be deported because he does not have valid travel documents.

Reuters reported that the North Korean held a work permit that was valid till February 6, 2017.

Diplomatic ties between North Korea and Malaysia were initiated in the 1970s, and as trade in resources such as palm oil and steel increased, North Korea eventually established an embassy in Kuala Lumpur in 2003.

However, Kim Jong-nam’s death has converted this relationship into a full-blown diplomatic rift, with Malaysia even recalling its ambassador from Pyongyang.