KUALA LUMPUR — Two women arrested for the nerve agent assassination of Kim Jong Nam are to be charged with his murder, Malaysia said Tuesday, as North Korea sent a senior diplomat to seek the return of the body. The spectacular killing of Kim Jong Un’s half brother with VX, a fast-acting poison developed for warfare, sparked an international probe and lurid stories of Pyongyang’s Cold War-style tradecraft. South Korea says its isolated neighbor was behind the assassination and claims the North’s agents engaged two outsiders to carry out the murder. “They will be charged in court under Section 302 (murder) of the penal code,” Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali told AFP by text message, referring to the two suspects. The women, from Indonesia and Vietnam, will appear in court on Wednesday. If convicted, they could face death by hanging. Kim, a well-traveled polyglot who fell out of favor at home after a botched 2001 attempt to get into Japan on a false passport, died less than 20 minutes after he was set upon at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13. CCTV footage shows two women approaching him and seemingly pushing something in his face. Investigators say this was VX, a deadly poison classed as a weapon of mass destruction and banned around the world. Both women have claimed they thought they were taking part in a practical joke. Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, reportedly told a senior diplomat Saturday she had been paid just 400 ringgit (US$90) for her role, adding she believed she was handling a liquid like “baby oil.” Her alleged accomplice, Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Vietnam, told Hanoi officials she had been tricked into killing Kim and thought she was taking part in a prank for a comedy video. Speaking from the Vietnamese village of Quan Phuong, Huong’s stepmother appealed for a fair trial.
“I think she was set up.” Nguyen Thi Vy told AFP. “I don’t believe she was brave enough to do such a thing.”
North Korea has not acknowledged the identity of the dead man but has insisted Malaysia hand over the corpse, and says it does not accept the findings of an autopsy. Pyongyang has repeatedly lashed out at Kuala Lumpur over the investigation into the killing, claiming the Malaysians are playing politics. Veteran North Korean diplomat Ri Tong Il, deputy envoy to the United Nations, told reporters outside the embassy he was there to discuss “the question of the return of the body of the deceased DPRK (North Korean) citizen.”