North Korea official speaks with police at the morgue at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital where Kim Jong Nam’s body is held for autopsy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia February 15, 2017.Reuters/Edgar Su

A fleet of black cars with the red number plates filled the small car park outside the forensics department of Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
They were the vehicles of officials from North Korea’s embassy in Malaysia, including the ambassador himself; stony-faced men who had disappeared into the building several hours earlier.
Inside, the post-mortem examination was being performed on Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, but that was all anyone knew.
Even when the embassy officials left in silence, engulfed in the camera flashes and yelled questions, there was no sign of what had unfolded inside.
But we now know the North Koreans were not there as observers.
They had come for the body.
Malaysian police have confirmed the North Koreans demanded the corpse of the one-time heir of the Kim dynasty be released to them immediately.
Malaysian officers refused to comply with their request.
They said they had a duty to conduct the post-mortem on Kim Jong-Nam’s body – a crucial part of their investigation into the apparent assassination, carried out in broad daylight in the middle of a busy airport departure hall.

Malaysian police also claimed they could only release the body once they had established who had rightful claim to it.
In the first instance, the officers are presuming that would be the man’s immediate family. But where they are is unclear.
The stand-off at the hospital forensics centre adds another layer of intrigue to what is already a story throwing up questions far quicker than answers.
Some speculate the effort to stop the post-mortem was an audacious attempt at damage limitation to prevent as much detail as possible becoming public about an assassination operation.
Others suggest it is the opposite – a statement of strength and a demonstration of how little concern the North Korean regime has for being seen to have killed off a perceived ‘threat’.
Which of these interpretations is accurate will depend on what happens next.
The Malaysian post-mortem results, when they are eventually made public, will give an indication of how Kim Jong-Nam was killed.
But the explanation of why he was killed, whatever the conjecture and speculation from analysts and intelligence officials, can perhaps only truly be articulated by North Korea’s own statements and actions from here.


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