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North Korea

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The UN has imposed new targeted sanctions against North Korea in response to a series of missile tests conducted by Pyongyang this year.

The measures impose a travel ban and asset freeze on four entities and 14 officials, including the head of North Korea’s overseas spying operations.

The UN Security Council voted unanimously to back the sanctions after weeks of negotiations between the US and China.

North Korea has defied a UN resolution banning all nuclear and missile tests.

The sanctions resolution was adopted by the 15-member council on June 2.

Among the 14 North Korean officials is Cho Il-u, who leads Pyongyang’s foreign espionage operations.

The other blacklisted officials are senior members of North Korea’s Workers’ Party and heads of trading companies funding Pyongyang’s military program.

North Korea’s strategic rocket force, the Koryo Bank and two trading companies were also added to the list.

The Koryo Bank is linked to a party office that manages finances of North Korea’s top officials, including leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea has been testing its missiles at an unprecedented pace. It says its nuclear program is defensive and intended to counter US aggression.

However, experts fear the tests indicate progress towards North Korea’s ultimate goal of putting a nuclear warhead on a missile that could strike the continental US.

President Donald Trump has warned North Korea that America’s “strategic patience” over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions came to an end.

Washington has recently sent its aircraft carrier to the Korean peninsula.

At the same time, the US has been negotiating with China – North Korea’s ally – to put more pressure on the secretive regime.

The UN Security Council first imposed sanctions against North Korea in 2006 in response to its missile and nuclear programs.

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A US aircraft has been “unprofessional” intercepted by two Chinese Sukhoi Su-30 jets, the US military said.

One of the Chinese jets came as close as 150ft to the US WC-135 plane and flew upside down above it, according to US officials cited by CNN.

According to the US military, the plane was on a mission to detect radiation in international airspace over the East China Sea.

Tensions have repeatedly risen over US activity near the resource-rich international waters off China’s coast.

The intercept, which took place on May 17, was deemed unprofessional “due to the maneuvers by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircraft”, Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Lori Hodge said.

He said the issue was “being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels”, and a military investigation was under way.

Image source Wikimedia

China has not commented on the incident, but it accuses the US of carrying out reconnaissance flights over Chinese coastal waters and regularly calls on the US to reduce patrols in the area.

It claims sovereignty over almost all of the disputed territory in the South and East China seas, though several other countries in the region have competing claims.

China has backed its expansive claims with island-building and naval patrols.

The US plane has previously been used to detect evidence of possible nuclear tests by North Korea.

Separately, China and South East Asian countries have agreed a framework for a long-awaited code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea, China’s foreign ministry said, without giving details on the content.

The draft will now be submitted to the foreign ministers of the countries in August.

Over the years, the US, China and several of the South East Asian countries have had disputes over rival activity in the South China Sea.

Moon Jae-in has been sworn in as South Korea’s new leader following his decisive win in the presidential election.

He vowed to address the economy and relations with North Korea in his first speech as president.

Moon Jae-in, 64, said that he would even be willing to visit Pyongyang under the right circumstances.

He took his oath of office in Seoul’s National Assembly building a day after his victory.

The former human rights lawyer and son of North Korean refugees is known for his liberal views.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula remain high and recent weeks have seen the US and North Korea trade angry rhetoric as speculation about another nuclear test grows.

Moon Jae-in has also vowed to unify a divided country reeling from a corruption scandal which saw his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, impeached.

In his inauguration speech, Moon Jae-in said he would “do everything I can to build peace on the Korean peninsula”.

Image source Wikipedia

“If needed I will fly to Washington immediately,” he said.

“I will also go to Beijing and Tokyo and even Pyongyang in the right circumstances.”

Moon Jae-in added that he would have “serious negotiations” with the US and China over the controversial deployment of anti-missile system THAAD.

North Korea has yet to officially comment on Moon Jae-in’s victory and remarks. It had previously hinted that Moon Jae-in was its preferred candidate.

The Democratic Party candidate has also promised to bolster the economy and address youth unemployment, which are key concerns for voters.

Moon Jae-in has been critical of the two previous conservative administrations, which took a hard-line stance against Pyongyang, for failing to stop North Korea’s weapons development.

Since the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953, there have only been two summits where the leaders of the two Koreas have met, both held in Pyongyang.

Moon Jae-in spearheaded preparations for the second meeting in 2007, when serving as a presidential aide.

The US, South Korea’s most important ally, has congratulated Moon Jae-in on his victory.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the US looked forward to continuing to “strengthen the alliance” and “deepen the enduring friendship and partnership”.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe said their countries faced common challenges “led by responses to the North Korean issue” but they could “further contribute to peace and prosperity of the region by working together”.

China’s President Xi Jinping said he “always attaches great importance to the relationship between China and South Korea”, and that he was “willing to diligently work with” with Moon Jae-in to ensure both countries benefit, reported Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

Voters in South Korea are going to polls to elect a new president after a huge corruption scandal brought down the former leader, Park Geun-hye.

Liberal Moon Jae-in is the strong favorite with centrist Ahn Cheol-soo his nearest challenger.

South Korea’s economic issues are a big concern for voters but the election could see a shift in policy towards North Korea.

Moon Jae-in wants to increase contact with North Korea in contrast to impeached President Park Geun-hye who cut almost all ties.

A record turnout is predicted, with numbers boosted by younger voters, as South Koreans choose from 13 candidates.

Polls close at 20:00 local time, with the winner expected to be announced soon after. The new leader is likely to be sworn-in on May 10.

Heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula in recent weeks have made the perennial worries over the South’s volatile neighbor a key issue.

Moon Jae-in, of the Democratic Party of Korea, has advocated greater dialogue with North Korea while maintaining pressure and sanctions.

Both Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo have urged President Donald Trump to cool his rhetoric towards North Korea after his administration suggested it could take military action over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

However, Hong Joon-pyo of the conservative governing Liberty Korea Party has attacked Moon Jae-in’s approach, saying last week that the election was a “war of regime choices”.

North Korea state media said it favored a return to an earlier era of communication and co-operation known as the Sunshine policy, seen as an endorsement of Moon Jae-in who was part of the previous South Korean government which promoted that policy.

All the candidates are promising to protect the fragile recovery in the country’s economy – the fourth largest in Asia – and to bring down youth unemployment, which remains stubbornly high.

There have been vows to reform the family-run conglomerates – chaebols – which dominate the domestic economy.

Whoever wins will have to tackle ties with China, which retaliated economically over the deployment of a US missile defense system in South Korea.

All candidates have been promising a break from the past as symbolized by the deeply unpopular Park Geun-hye.

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North Korea has announced it has detained US citizen Kim Hak-song on suspicion of “hostile acts” against the state.

Kim Hak-song worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) and was held on May 6, state-run news agency KCNA said.

Three other US citizens are currently held in North Korea, including Kim Sang-duck, who had taught at PUST.

The US has in the past accused North Korea of detaining its citizens to use them as pawns.

KCNA said that “a relevant institution” was “conducting [a] detailed investigation” into Kim Hak-song’s alleged crimes.

It gave no further details.

A State Department official said Washington was “aware of reports that a US citizen was detained in North Korea”, adding it would liaise with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which helps look after US interests in North Korea.

Kim Hak-song had previously described himself as a Christian missionary who intended to start an experimental farm at PUST, Reuters reported, citing an online post by Kim Hak-song.

PUST is a university that mostly teaches the children of North Korea’s elite.

It was founded in 2010 by a Korean-American Christian entrepreneur, with much of the costs funded by US and South Korea Christian charities.

Several foreign lecturers are thought to teach at the university.

The detention comes amid heightened tensions between North Korea and the US.

Pyongyang has threatened to carry out a new nuclear test – while the US has sent a warship to the region and vowed to stop the North from developing nuclear weapons.

On May 5, North Korea accused US and South Korean agents of plotting to kill its Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un.

The US and South Korean governments did not comment on the allegations, but experts were skeptical about the claim.

Kim Hak-song’s arrest makes him the fourth US citizen to be held by North Korea.

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The controversial THAAD missile defense system is now operational in South Korea, the US military says.

The system can intercept North Korean missiles although full operational capability is still some months away.

Tensions have been rising around the Korean peninsula, with repeated threats from North Korea and the presence of a group of US warships and a submarine.

North Korea reacted angrily to the latest military exercise, accusing the US of risking a nuclear war.

The rise in tension comes only a day after President Donald Trump said he would be “honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in the right circumstances.

The US announced last week it would activate THAAD, which was not expected to be in use until late 2017, within days.

THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) has been installed at a former golf course in the central county of Seongju, amid angry protests.

Image source Wikimedia

Many locals believe the system is a potential target for attacks and endangers the lives of those living nearby.

China also strongly opposes the system, believing it interferes with the security of its own military operations. On May 2, Beijing demanded the deployment be halted.

China would “firmly take necessary measures to uphold our interests”, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

However, Geng Shuang welcomed President Trump’s suggestion of meeting Kim Jong-un, saying China had “always believed that dialogue and consultation… is the only realistic and viable way to achieve denuclearization”.

When the announcement of the THAAD deployment was made last year, North Korea promised a physical response, with state media expressing the “unwavering will of our army to deal a ruthless retaliatory strike”.

A spokesman for the US forces based in South Korea said THAAD now had “the ability to defend the Republic of Korea”.

However, the system only has “initial intercept capability”, a US defense official told AFP. It will be strengthened later this year as more parts of the system arrive.

North Korea and the US have traded heated rhetoric in recent weeks as Pyongyang continues to defy a UN ban on missile tests.

Pyongyang has carried out two failed missile launches in recent weeks and has said it is ready to carry out its sixth nuclear test at any time.

North Korea reacted angrily on May 2 to a joint US-South Korea military exercise the day before involving two supersonic B-1B Lancer bombers, which it said was a “nuclear bomb dropping drill”.

“The reckless military provocation is pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula closer to the brink of nuclear war,” North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said.

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Japan has dispatched its biggest helicopter carrier, Izumo, in the first such operation since it passed controversial laws expanding the role of its military.

The Izumo is escorting a US supply vessel within Japanese waters.

The US ship is heading to refuel the naval fleet in the region, including the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group.

North Korea has threatened to sink the Carl Vinson and a US submarine, amid rising tensions in the region.

On April 30, North Korea also carried out a failed missile test, despite repeated warnings from the US and others to stop its nuclear and missile activity.

Image source Defencyclopedia

According to The Japan Times, the 249m-long Izumo can carry up to nine helicopters, and resembles US amphibious assault carriers.

Kyodo news agency said it was leaving its base in Yokosuka south of Tokyo to join the US supply ship, and accompany it to waters off Shikoku in western Japan.

Under PM Shinzo Abe, Japan is gradually pushing the limits of what its modern and powerful military is allowed to do, and with tensions high on the Korean peninsula.

Japan’s post-World War Two constitution bars its military from using force to resolve conflicts except in cases of self-defense.

The Izumo is the first warship deployed outside of military exercises under new laws passed in 2015 that allow Japan to come to the aid of an ally under attack known as “collective self-defense”.

Shinzo Abe’s government, which pushed for the change, faced criticism that the new laws could lead Japan into unnecessary wars abroad – something the prime minister has rejected.

The Izumo’s deployment follows recent joint exercises conducted by Japan and the US, and other naval developments.

A French amphibious assault ship arrived in south-west Japan on April 29 for an exercise also involving Japanese, US and British naval forces. South Korea has been conducting joint exercises with the US as well.

China last week also launched its second aircraft carrier.

President Donald Trump’s strategy on North Korea is to tighten sanctions on the secretive country and step up diplomatic moves aimed at pressuring it to end its nuclear and missile programs.

The strategy was announced after a special briefing for all 100 US senators.

Earlier, the top US commander in the Pacific defended the deployment of an advanced missile defense system in South Korea.

Tensions in the Korean Peninsula raised amid fears North Korea is planning new weapons tests.

A joint statement issued by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said: “The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

“We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.

“The president’s approach aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners.”

The US already has extensive sanctions in place on North Korea, including a blanket ban on trade and a blacklist of anyone dealing with North Korea.

It is not clear what further sanctions the US could impose.

Democratic Senator Christopher Coons told reporters that military options were discussed at the special presidential briefing for senators.

“It was a sobering briefing in which it was clear just how much thought and planning was going into preparing military options if called for – and a diplomatic strategy that strikes me as clear-eyed and well-proportioned to the threat,” he said.

Image source Wikipedia

A White House official said an option under consideration was to put North Korea back on the state department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

President Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, imposed sanctions over a year ago following a nuclear test and satellite launch by North Korea.

North Korean government property in America was frozen and US exports to, or investment in, North Korea was banned.

The order also greatly expanded powers to blacklist anyone, including non-Americans, dealing with North Korea.

The senators received a highly unusual briefing by the Trump administration on the seriousness of the threat from North Korea and Donald Trump’s strategy for dealing with it on April 26.

Earlier Admiral Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, said the US would be ready “with the best technology” to defeat any missile threat.

The deployment of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea was aimed, he argued, at bringing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “to his senses, not to his knees”.

Admiral Harry Harris said he believed that North Korea would try to attack the US as soon as it had the military capabilities.

China says the deployment of THAAD will destabilize security and there have been protests in South Korea itself, where three people were injured in clashes with police as the system was being delivered to a former golf course on April 26.

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Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) has named the American citizen detained in North Korea on April 22 as Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim.

The Korean-American lecturer taught at the North Korean university for several weeks prior to his arrest.

Tony Kim was arrested just as he was about to leave Pyongyang.

North Korean authorities have not yet disclosed the reason for the arrest.

According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, Tony Kim, who is in his late 50s, was involved in aid programs and had been in North Korea to discuss relief activities.

Kim Sang-duk reportedly taught at Yanbian University of Science and Technology in China, which is affiliated to PUST.

Image source CNN

PUST’s chancellor, Park Chan-mo, was quoted by Reuters as saying that Tony Kim “had been involved with some other activities outside PUST such as helping an orphanage”.

The US State Department said it was aware of reports of the detention, but would not comment further because of “privacy considerations”, US media reported.

The detention comes as tensions ratchet up in the Korean peninsula, with US warships steaming towards the region as Pyonyang threatens a “super-mighty pre-emptive strike”.

Chinese state media reported that President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump spoke on the phone again on April 24.

Xi Jinping reiterated his call for calm saying he “hopes relevant parties exercise restraint, and avoid actions that would increase tensions”, and both leaders promised to keep in touch regarding the Korean peninsula, reports said.

US officials have not yet confirmed the call.

The US has in the past accused North Korea of detaining its citizens to use them as pawns. Tony Kim is one of three US citizens currently being held by North Korea.

In April 2016, Kim Dong-chul, a 62-year-old naturalized US citizen born in South Korea, was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor for spying. He was arrested in October 2015.

American student Otto Warmbier, 21, was arrested in January 2016 for trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel while visiting North Korea.

Otto Warmbier was given 15 years hard labor for crimes against the state in March 2016.

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North Korea has said it is “ready to hit back with nuclear attacks” if the US will take provocative action in the region.

The comments came as North Korea marked the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founding president, Kim Il-sung.

Soldiers, tanks and other military hardware were paraded in the capital Pyongyang in a show of strength on April 15.

It comes amid speculation that the current leader, Kim Jong-un, could order another nuclear test.

North Korean military official Choe Ryong-Hae said: “We’re prepared to respond to an all-out war with an all-out war.”

He added: “We are ready to hit back with nuclear attacks of our own style against any nuclear attacks.”

Photo Reuters

North Korea staged an extravagant display of military strength at April 15 parade amid concern that mounting tensions in the region could lead to a conflict with the US.

Rows of military bands and columns of troops marched into Pyongyang’s main Kim Il-sung square in the heart of the city.

On display for the first time were what appeared to be submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which could be developed to house nuclear warheads capable of reaching targets around the world.

With concerns that the state is getting closer to successfully producing a nuclear arsenal, the parade was an opportunity for Kim Jong-un to broadcast North Korea’s current military capabilities.

The event made clear how vital North Korea’s nuclear program is to its future ambitions as it continues to ignore growing pressure from the US to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches. Experts and government officials believe it is working to develop nuclear-warhead missiles that can reach the US.

On April, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that “conflict could break out at any moment”, adding that if war occurred there could be no winner.

China, North Korea’s only backer, fears conflict could cause the regime to collapse and problems on its border.

“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” Wang Yi said.

Adding to Chinese unease, President Donald Trump said on April 13 that “the problem of North Korea” would be “taken care of”.

“If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

President Trump has recently demonstrated his willingness to resort to military methods. He ordered a cruise missile attack on Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack, and the US military just used a huge bomb against ISIS in Afghanistan.

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President Donald Trump is hosting China talks with President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago for their first summit.

President Trump said they had “developed a friendship” as they sat for dinner at Mar-a-Lago.

He is expected to press President Xi for action on North Korea, and the Chinese leader to seek assurances on Taiwan.

President Trump has said the summit “will be a very difficult one”. In 2016, he accused China of “raping the US”.

During the election campaign, Donald Trump said massive trade deficits and job losses could no longer be tolerated. However, at dinner on April 6, it was all smiles, with the leaders’ two wives, folk singer Peng Liyuan and First Lady Melania Trump also in attendance.

The meeting was, however, largely overshadowed later by a US airstrike on an airbase in Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack.

Despite his tough campaign talk, Donald Trump has so far not followed through on his threat to formally brand China a “currency manipulator”, nor to hit Chinese imports with punitive tariffs.

His blue-collar supporters will hope he can translate his China-bashing election rhetoric into concrete gains for American manufacturing workers.

One of the most urgent issues for the US is North Korea, which is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the west coast of the US with a nuclear device.

North Korea fired a medium-range missile into the Sea of Japan on April 5, the latest in a series of launches.

Although Beijing has condemned this and previous missile tests, it has so far been reluctant to isolate its neighbor, fearing its collapse could spawn a refugee crisis and bring the US military to its doorstep.

Donald Trump is expected to call on Xi Jinping to arm-twist North Korea into halting its nuclear program by denying it access to banking institutions.

The president told the Financial Times this week he was prepared to act unilaterally, saying: “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”

A senior White House official said North Korea would be a key test for the Trump-Xi relationship.

“The clock is very, very quickly running out,” the official said.

“All options are on the table for us.”

For his part, President Xi Jinping will seek assurances from President Donald Trump on US arms sales to Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province that must eventually reunify with the mainland.

Donald Trump outraged China in December when he took the unorthodox step of accepting a phone call from the Taiwanese president.

However, he later agreed to respect the “one China” policy in a telephone call with President Xi Jinping in February.

Climate change, which Donald Trump once dismissed as a Chinese hoax, and Beijing’s building of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, could also come up.

Some protesters lined the streets on April 6 to voice their opposition to China’s policy in the South China Sea.

President Xi Jinping’s visit will conclude with a working lunch on April 7.

However, there is unlikely to be any golf on the agenda. While Donald Trump is fond of hitting the fairway, Xi Jinping’s administration has cracked down on the sport in an anti-corruption drive.

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Kim Jong-nam’s body has arrived in North Korea, Chinese officials have confirmed.

Pyongyang had requested the body of Kin Jong-un’s half-brother, but has not confirmed its identity.

The body was released as part of a deal under which nine Malaysians previously prevented from leaving North Korea have now arrived home.

Malaysia and North Korea had been locked in a diplomatic row in the wake of Kim Jong-nam’s murder in Kuala Lumpur last month.

Both countries had banned each other’s citizens from leaving.

“The body of the DPRK citizen who died in Malaysia and relevant DPRK citizens have returned to the DPRK today via Beijing,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing, using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korea is widely suspected of having orchestrated the killing of Kim Jong-nam with VX nerve agent in Kuala Lumpur’s airport.

Three North Koreans who had been wanted for questioning have now been allowed to leave Malaysia, Malaysia’s chief of police said.

Image source Getty Images

“We have obtained whatever we wanted from them” and are “satisfied” with the statements, Khalid Abu Bakar said.

In the wake of Kim Jong-nam’s killing on February 13, Pyongyang reacted angrily when Malaysia refused to hand over the body immediately, without an autopsy.

Malaysian authorities said they had the right to conduct an autopsy as he had been killed on Malaysian soil, and that they would only release the body to Kim Jong-nam’s family.

On March 30, Malysian PM Najib Razak said a formal request had been received from the family, but gave no further details.

A day later, national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said “legally speaking, Kim Jong-un is the next-of-kin” but declined to say who the request had come from.

King Jong-nam’s own family previously lived in Macau but they are now thought to be in hiding.

His son Kim Han-sol appeared in a video earlier this month confirming he was with his mother and sister at an unspecified location.

Although Kim Jong-nam was the eldest son of the former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un was passed over for the leadership and was living outside North Korea at the time of his father’s death.

Malaysia’s refusal to hand over Kim Jong-nam’s body prompted a war of words. North Korea’s ambassador Kang Chol accused Malaysia of colluding with “hostile forces”, allegations which Kuala Lumpur dubbed as “delusions, lies and half-truths”.

Kang Chol was expelled and the Malaysian ambassador to North Korea was also recalled.

North Korea then said it would ban all Malaysians in the country from leaving until the “situation was resolved”, which Malaysia’s PM Najib Razak called an “abhorrent act” that effectively held his citizens hostage.

Kuala Lumpur enacted a tit-for-tat exit ban on North Koreans.

Under the deal, the nine Malaysian nationals returned to Kuala Lumpur on March 31, where they were met by relatives.

They include Malaysia’s counselor to North Korea, Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain, embassy staff, and their families.

The exact circumstances of how the deal was struck remain unclear. PM Najib Razak described the negotiations as “challenging”.

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Anifah Aman hailed the exchange as a success of diplomacy and “level-headedness”.

Reuters reported that TV footage showed two North Koreans on the flight to Beijing with the body: Hyon Kwang-song, the second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Kim Uk-il, a North Korean state airline employee.

The third was named Ri Ji-u, who had been holed up with them in the North Korean Embassy, Reuters quoted the chief of police as saying.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has urged the United States to remain “cool-headed” over North Korea.

The situation was at a “crossroads”, but must not be allowed to develop into a conflict, he said after meeting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Rex Tillerson spoke of “dangerous levels” of tension, a day after suggesting the US might launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.

North Korea is working to develop nuclear missiles that can reach the United States.

Rex Tillerson is in Beijing in the final leg of his East Asia tour, which has been dominated by anxieties over North Korea.

Last week, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles – defying UN resolutions.

Image source Flickr

In South Korea on March 17, Rex Tillerson said a US military response would be on the table if North Korea threatened South Korea or US forces.

And President Trump tweeted that North Korea was “behaving very badly”.

Donald Trump also said that China – North Korea’s main ally – had done “little to help”.

Wang Yi defended China’s position, saying all parties were duty-bound to implement UN sanctions against North Korea, but also to seek dialogue and diplomatic solutions.

He said: “We hope that all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision.”

Secretary Rex Tillerson did not repeat his threat in Beijing, but stressed that the US and China shared “a common view that tensions on the peninsula are quite high right now – and that things have reached a rather dangerous level”.

However, he added that they had both committed “to do whatever we can to prevent any kind of conflict breaking out”.

The US has deployed its Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) in South Korea in a move it says is designed to protect against threats from North Korea.

However, China has claimed the system goes “far beyond” the defense needs of the Korean peninsula.

Secretary Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 19.

President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit the US in April for his first meeting with President Donald Trump.

Some commentators expect Rex Tillerson to downplay any tensions between the two countries ahead of that encounter.

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Malaysia has expelled North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol after he criticized the country’s investigation into the killing of Kim Jong-nam.

Ambassador Kang Chol must leave within 48 hours, Malaysia’s foreign ministry says.

Malaysia demanded an apology after the ambassador said North Korea could not trust its handling of the probe, but says it did not receive one.

Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, died on February 13 at a Kuala Lumpur airport.

Malaysia has not directly blamed North Korea for the attack, in which two women smeared the nerve agent VX on Kim Jong-nam’s face. However, there is widespread suspicion North Korea was responsible.

Kang Chol, who had become a fierce critic of Malaysia, said the probe into the killing had become “politicized” and was being interfered with.

The foreign minister declared the ambassador “persona non grata”, and said his country had demanded an apology for the comments, but this was not forthcoming.

Image source Getty Images

Anifah Aman said in a statement: “Malaysia will react strongly against any insults made against it or any attempt to tarnish its reputation.”

Ambassador Kang Chol also failed to turn up for a meeting at the Malaysian foreign ministry on March 4, he added.

Malaysia is seeking to question several North Koreans, including an embassy official, over the death of Kim Jong-nam.

Two women, one from Vietnam another from Indonesia, have been charged with murder. They both said they thought they were taking part in a TV prank, but are yet to make a formal plea in their case.

The expulsion of the North Korean ambassador also comes after the Malaysian government announced an investigation into a company called Glocom, which has been operating in Malaysia for several years.

According to a confidential United Nations report, Glocom is run by North Korea’s top intelligence agency to sell military communications equipment, in violation of UN sanctions.

Malaysia was one of very few countries that had relatively friendly relations with North Korea.

However, it canceled visa-free travel for visiting North Koreans in the wake of the killing, citing security reasons. It had already recalled its ambassador in Pyongyang as it investigated the case.

North Korea 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.

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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.

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Two women involved in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam are to be charged with murder on March 1, Malaysia’s prosecutor says.

Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali said the Indonesian and Vietnamese suspects would be formally charged and could face death if convicted.

They allegedly smeared a deadly chemical over Kim Jong-nam’s face at a Malaysia airport earlier this month.

The women have said they thought they were taking part in a TV prank.

Image source Getty Images

“They will be charged in court under Section 302 of the penal code,” the attorney general said, which is a murder charge with a mandatory death sentence if found guilty.

Mohamed Apandi Ali said no decision had yet been taken on whether to charge a North Korean man, Ri Jong-chol, who is also being held over the killing.

Kim Jong-nam Died in Pain Within 15-20 Minutes, Says Malaysia’s Health Minister

Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam and Siti Aisyah from Indonesia are among some ten suspects identified by Malaysia as being involved in the killing.

The other suspects include a senior official at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur and a staff member of the state airline. South Korea believes at least four suspects are North Korean spies.

A high-level delegation from North Korea – led by the former ambassador to the UN – arrived in Kuala Lumpur on February 28.

They said they were seeking the retrieval of the body and the release of Ri Jong Chol, as well as the “development of friendly relationships” between North Korea and Malaysia.

North Korea has not confirmed that the person killed on February 13 at Kuala Lumpur airport was Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of leader Kim Jong-un, saying only he was a North Korean traveling on a diplomatic passport.

Kim Jong-nam, 42, was at a check-in desk for a flight to Macau, where he lives, when he was accosted.

Kim Jong-un’s brother was smeared with a very high amount of the toxic nerve agent VX and died in pain within 15-20 minutes, Malaysia’s health minister said on February 26.

It appears Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has been killed in Malaysia by a highly toxic nerve agent called VX.

The VX nerve agent is the most potent of the known chemical warfare agents. It is a clear, amber-colored, oily liquid which is tasteless and odorless.

Image source Wikimedia

The agent works by penetrating the skin and disrupting the transmission of nerve impulses – a drop on the skin can kill in minutes. Lower doses can cause eye pain, blurred vision, drowsiness and vomiting.

VX can be disseminated in a spray or vapor when used as a chemical weapon, or used to contaminate water, food, and agricultural products.

It can be absorbed into the body by inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, or eye contact.

Clothing can carry VX for about 30 minutes after contact with the vapor, which can expose other people.

VX was banned by the 1993 UN’s Chemical Weapons Convention.

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President Donald Trump has repeated calls for the US nuclear supremacy, in his first comments on the issue since taking office.

He said it would be “wonderful” if no nation had nuclear arms, but otherwise the US must be “top of the pack”.

President Trump told Reuter that the United States had “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity”.

Critics say the US and Russia already have more weapons than necessary to deter a nuclear attack.

According to the US nonpartisan Arms Control Association, the US has 6,800 nuclear weapons and Russia has 7,000.

Speaking to Reuters in a wide-ranging interview, President Trump said: “I am the first one that would like to see everybody – nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.

“It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

Image source Flickr

Donald Trump’s latest comments on nuclear weapons echo a tweet he sent a few weeks after his election win, in which he pledged to increase the country’s capability.

A new strategic arms limitation treaty between the US and Russia, known as New Start, requires that by February 5, 2018, both countries must limit their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels for 10 years.

The independent Arms Control Association non-profit group criticized Donald Trump’s remarks.

The group said in a statement: “Mr. Trump’s comments suggest, once again, that he is ill-informed about nuclear weapons and has a poor understanding of the unique dangers of nuclear weapons.

“The history of the Cold War shows us that no one comes out on <<top of the pack>> of an arms race and nuclear brinksmanship.”

During Donald Trump’s campaign he referred to nuclear proliferation as the “single biggest problem” facing the world, but also said he could not rule out using nuclear weapons against Europe.

Hillary Clinton repeatedly cast Donald Trump during the campaign as too erratic and lacking in the diplomatic skills required to avoid a nuclear war.

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North Korea has reacted for the first time to Kim Jong-nam’s assassination saying that Malaysia is responsible for the death of one of its citizens and is attempting to politicize the return of his body.

It does not name Kim Jong-nam, but the KCNA report appears to be state media’s first reference to the death of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother.

Kim Jong-un died after being poisoned at Kuala Lumpur airport and his body remains in a hospital mortuary.

Several North Koreans are wanted in connection with his death.

They include a senior official at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur as well as an employee of the state airline, Air Koryo.

Four other North Koreans named earlier in the case are thought to have left Malaysia already, while another North Korean is in detention.

Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said on February 23 that he had asked international police agency Interpol to issue an alert for the four.

On February 22, Malaysian police confirmed that Kim Jong-nam died after two women – also in detention – wiped a toxin on his face while he was waiting for a flight to Macau.

It said the attack was “planned” and that the women had been well trained. They have not directly blamed the North Korean state, but said North Koreans were clearly behind it.

Kim Jong-nam was once seen as a possible successor to his father, Kim Jong-il, but was bypassed in favor of his younger half brother, Kim Jong-un, and spent many years living abroad.

He had been travelling on a passport under the name Kim Chol.

Malaysia says it believes the man was indeed Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong-un, though it is seeking family DNA samples for official confirmation, a request North Korea called “absurd”.

KCNA said only that “a citizen of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]” who was traveling on a diplomatic passport had died due to “a heart stroke”.

It said reports of a poisoning were false and Malaysia was part of an “anti-DPRK conspiratorial racket launched by the South Korean authorities”.

Conducting a post-mortem on the holder of a diplomatic passport without state permission was “a wanton human rights abuse and an act contrary to human ethics and morality”, it said.

“The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia,” said the KCNA report, and the refusal to hand the body back to North Korean officials “proves that the Malaysian side is going to politicize the transfer of the body in utter disregard of international law and morality and thus attain a sinister purpose”.

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A senior North Korean embassy official is wanted by Malaysian police for questioning in connection with the assassination of Kim Jong-un’s half brother, Kim Jong-nam.

Hyon Kwang-song is one of three North Koreans being sought, along with an employee of the state airline.

Malaysian police also confirmed Kim Jong-nam died after two women wiped a toxin on him at Kuala Lumpur airport.

North Korea’s embassy in Malaysia angrily denied the claims.

In a statement, the North Korean embassy said the fact that the substance was on the hands of the women proved it could not have been a poison and called for the immediate release of the “innocent females” and a North Korean man.

Speaking at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on February 22, Malaysian Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar said they were looking for three North Koreans in addition to the previously announced suspects.

One of them is Hyon Kwang-song, 44, the second secretary of the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The others are Kim Uk-il, 37, who works for Air Koryo, and another North Korean Ri Ju U.

Khalid Abu Bakar said they had written to the North Korean ambassador to Malaysia asking him to allow police to interview Hyon Kwang-song and the other suspects.

If the ambassador does not co-operate, “we will compel them to come to us”, he said, without giving details.

The police chief also said security had been stepped up at the morgue where Kim Jong-nam’s body is being kept after an attempted break-in earlier in the week.

Ten people have either been named as suspects or are wanted by Malaysian police for questioning in connection to Kim Jong-nam’s assassination.

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In an escalating row over the killing of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Malaysia has stepped up diplomatic measures against North Korea.

On February 13, Kim Jong-nam died in mysterious circumstances at an airport in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian police believe he was poisoned.

Malaysia has recalled its ambassador from the North Korea and has summoned the North Korean ambassador “to seek an explanation”.

Malaysian police say they are now looking for four North Korean suspects.

Meanwhile, a video which apparently shows CCTV footage of the attack on Kim Jong-nam has surfaced and aired on Japan’s TV.

Despite widespread speculation that North Korea was behind the killing, there has been no definitive evidence and Pyongyang has not issued an official statement yet.

On February 17, North Korean ambassador Kang Chol accused the government in Kuala Lumpur of colluding with “hostile forces”, saying that Malaysia had “something to conceal”.

South Korea has accused North Korea of orchestrating the incident, saying on February 20 it was evidence of North Korean “terrorism getting bolder”.

Malaysia was one of very few countries to maintain diplomatic relations with North Korea, but this killing has strained ties.

It has refused to accede to North Korean demands to release Kim’s body into their custody without an autopsy.

That apparently prompted the comments on February 17 by North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia – which provoked an angry response from the Malaysian foreign ministry.

It said his accusation was “baseless”, adding that it was their responsibility to conduct an investigation as Kim Jong-nam had died on Malaysian soil.

Malaysian authorities are now waiting for the results of its autopsy. Kang Chol said his country would reject the result as it was done without the presence of its representatives.

Malaysia has also refused to release Kim Jong-nam’s body, saying it needs to conduct DNA testing first.

Police are now seeking samples from family members. Kim Jong-nam is believed to have family living in Beijing and Macau.

Malaysian police have said that if there is no claim by next of kin and once they exhaust all avenues for DNA collection, they will hand the body over to the North Korean embassy.

Kim Jong-nam is believed to have been attacked in the Kuala Lumpur airport departure hall on Monday by two women, using some form of chemical.

Japan’s Fuji TV has aired grainy CCTV footage showing a man resembling Kim Jong-nam approached by a woman at the airport.

Kim Jong-nam is thought to have fallen out of favor with Kim Jong-il in 2001 after he was caught trying to sneak into Japan using a false passport

Another woman then quickly lunges from behind and wipes his face with a cloth. She is seen wearing a white top emblazoned with the letters “LOL”.

The man is then seen seeking assistance from airport staff while gesturing at his face, and is escorted to a room.

Two women, one Indonesian and one Vietnamese, were among the first to be arrested. The Indonesian, named as Siti Aisyah, is said to have told Malaysian police she had been paid to perform what she thought was a prank.

Police have also detained one North Korean suspect, Ri Jong-chol, and said they are looking for four more men, who may have already left the country.

The men have been named as Ri Ji-hyon, 33; Hong Song-hac, 34; O Jong-gil, 55, and Ri Jae-nam, 57.

Kim Jong-nam was the first-born son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011.

He was largely estranged from his family, after being passed over for the North Korean leadership in favor of his youngest half-brother.

Kim Jong-nam went into exile in the early 2000s, spending most of his time in Macau, mainland China and Singapore.

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Four more North Korean suspects are hunted by Malaysian police in connection with the murder of Kim Jong-nam.

The men are said to have left Malaysia on February 13, the day the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was killed at Kuala Lumpur airport.

Four other people have already been detained.

Malaysian police believe poison was sprayed into Kim Jong-nam’s face as he waited to board a flight to Macau.

Deputy national police chief Noor Rashid Ismail identified the North Korean suspects in a press conference on February 19.

He said: “The four suspects are holding normal passports, not diplomatic passports.”

The four already in custody are an Indonesian woman, a Malaysian man, a woman with a Vietnamese passport and a North Korean.

The Indonesian national, named as Siti Aisyah, is said to have told Malaysian police she had been paid to perform what she thought was a prank.

Kim Jong-nam is believed to have been attacked in the airport departure hall on February 13 by two women, using some form of chemical.

A grainy image taken from security camera footage, which has been broadcast in South Korea and Malaysia, shows a woman wearing a white T-shirt with the letters “LOL” written on the front.

Despite widespread speculation that North Korea was behind the killing, there has been no proof. Pyongyang has made no public comments on the issue.

Kim Jong-nam was largely estranged from his family, after being passed over for the North Korean leadership in favor of his youngest half-brother. He spent most of his time overseas in Macau, mainland China and Singapore.

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Malaysian police have arrested a North Korean national over the killing of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam.

The man has been identified as 46-year-old Ri Jong-chol.

An Indonesian woman, a Malaysian man and a woman with a Vietnamese passport were detained earlier.

Malaysian police believe poison was sprayed into Kim Jong-nam’s face as he waited to board a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Macau.

Malaysian Deputy PM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi formally confirmed on February 16 that the dead man, who was travelling under the name Kim Chol, was Kim Jong-nam.

Police say Ri Jong-chol was detained on February 17 in Selangor, near Kuala Lumpur. No further details were given.

One of the detained women, an Indonesian national named as Siti Aisyah, is said to have told Malaysian police she had been paid to perform what she thought was a prank.

A Malaysian man thought to be her boyfriend was detained along with her.

The woman carrying a Vietnamese passport has been identified as Doan Thi Huong.

Kim Jong-nam is believed to have been attacked in the airport departure hall on February 13 by two women, using some form of chemical.

A grainy image taken from security camera footage, which has been broadcast in South Korea and Malaysia, shows a woman wearing a white T-shirt with the letters “LOL” written on the front.

It is not clear whether either of the detained women is the woman in the footage, and police say they are still looking for “a few” other suspects.

Police have now finished Kim Jong-nam’s post-mortem examination, though the results have not yet been made public.

North Korea has said it will reject the result of the autopsy.

It has demanded that Malaysia immediately release the body. Malaysia is refusing to do so until it receives a DNA sample from Kim Jong-nam’s next-of-kin.

South Korea’s intelligence agency has accused North Korea of assassinating Kim Jong-nam, saying Pyongyang had wanted to kill him for years but that he was being protected by China.

Despite widespread speculation that North Korea was behind the killing, there has been no proof. Pyongyang has made no public comments on the issue.

Kim Jong-nam was largely estranged from his family, after being passed over for the North Korean leadership in favor of his youngest half-brother. He spent most of his time overseas in Macau, mainland China and Singapore.

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Malaysian authorities have arrested two more suspects in connection with the death of Kim Jong-nam, the brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

A female Indonesian suspect and a Malaysian man thought to be her boyfriend were both detained on February 16.

A woman travelling on a Vietnamese passport has also been detained.

Kim Jong-nam died on February 13 after apparently being poisoned while waiting to board a flight in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian police say they have now finished their post-mortem examination, though the results have not yet been made public.

The two female suspects have been remanded in custody for seven days.

The inspector general of the Royal Malaysia police, Sri Khalid Bin Abu Bakar, said the second woman was detained on February 16 over the death of “a Korean male”.

She was identified from airport CCTV footage and had an Indonesian passport.

Malaysian Deputy PM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi formally confirmed today that the dead man, who was traveling under the name Kim Chol, was Kim Jong-nam, according to state news agency Bernama.

There is widespread speculation that North Korea was behind the killing, but there has been no proof.

On February 16, North Korea is celebrating what would have been the 75th birthday of Kim Jong-il, the late leader and father of both Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-un.

On February 15, Kim Jong-un was seen attending a ruling party meeting. Footage aired on state media showed him grim-faced, reported South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, and he did not wave when he left, as is customary.

Kim Jong-nam is believed to have been attacked in the airport departure hall by two women, using some form of chemical.

A grainy image taken from security camera footage, which has been broadcast in South Korea and Malaysia, shows a woman wearing a white T-shirt with the letters “LOL” written on the front.

It is not clear whether either is the woman in the footage, and police say they are still looking for “a few” other suspects.

Malaysia police said the woman arrested on February 16 was identified in her passport as Siti Aishah, 25, from Banten province in Indonesia.

The suspect arrested on February 15 had Vietnamese travel documents bearing the name Doan Thi Huong, 28.

Kim Jong-nam was largely estranged from his family, after being bypassed for inheriting the leadership in favor of his youngest half-brother.

He spent most of his time overseas in Macau, mainland China and Singapore.

Kim Jong-nam had spoken out in the past against his family’s dynastic control of North Korea and in a 2012 book was quoted as saying he believed his younger half-brother lacked leadership qualities.

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Malaysian police has detained a female suspect in connection with the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam.

According to police, the woman was arrested at the airport in the capital Kuala Lumpur where Kim Jong-nam was targeted in an apparent poisoning on February 13.

The woman was in possession of a Vietnamese travel document.

Malaysian police say they are looking for “a few” other suspects.

According to police, the arrested suspect, who was alone, was identified from CCTV footage taken at the airport. She has been identified as 28 year-old Doan Thi Huong.

South Korean media have widely reported that two women, said to be North Korean agents, were involved and fled the airport in a taxi, though Malaysian police have not confirmed those details.

Kim Jong-nam is thought to have fallen out of favor with Kim Jong-il in 2001 after he was caught trying to sneak into Japan using a false passport

A grainy image broadcast in South Korea and Malaysia shows a woman wearing a white T-shirt with the letters “LOL” written on the front.

Malaysia is yet to formally confirm that the dead man is Kim Jong-nam, as he was travelling under a different name – Kim Chol. However, the South Korean government has said it is certain it is him.

The South Korean spy agency is said to have told lawmakers they believe Kim Jong-nam was poisoned.

Earlier, Malaysia state news agency Bernama reported that a woman from Myanmar was detained at the airport. It is unclear if that report was referring to the woman now under arrest.

If confirmed, it would be the most high-profile death linked to North Korea since Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Chang Song-thaek, was executed in 2013.

North Korea has not commented on the death but officials from the country’s Malaysian embassy have been visiting the hospital in Kuala Lumpur where Kim Jong-nam’s body has been taken.

On February 13, Kim Jong-nam was attacked while waiting at the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport for a 10:00 flight to Macau, Malaysian newspaper reports say, quoting police.

Exactly how the attack unfolded is still unclear. Officials and witnesses have variously said he was splashed with a chemical or had a cloth placed over his face. Earlier reports spoke of a “spray” being used or a needle.

Kim Jong-nam died on the way to hospital.

It was not the first time Kim Jong-nam had traveled under an assumed identity: he was caught trying to enter Japan using a false passport in 2001. He told officials he had been planning to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

He was reportedly targeted for assassination in the past. A North Korean spy jailed by South Korea in 2012 is said to have admitted trying to organize a hit-and-run accident targeting him.

North Korea has a long history of sending agents overseas to carry out assassinations, attacks and kidnappings.