Malaysian health officials said Tuesday they have not yet determined a cause of death in the apparent assassination of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Noor Hisham Abdullah, director of general health at the Malaysian health ministry, told reporters that samples taken from an autopsy on Kim Jong Nam have been sent to a lab for analysis to both determine what killed him and to identify his next of kin.
That analysis will include examining the samples for evidence of any poisons, and it is unclear when it will be completed.
Noor Hisham said that from the autopsy there was “no evidence of heart attack” and “nothing obvious for us to suggest any puncture marks or wounds.”
As far as positively identifying the man as Kim Jong Nam, Noor Hisham said examiners have samples of DNA, fingerprints and dental information from the body, but not yet any corresponding records from family that can be matched up.
“At the moment we do not have anyone who claims to be the next of kin.”
On Monday, North Korea’s envoy to Kuala Lumpur, Kang Chol, called for a joint probe into the death, telling reporters that North Korean “cannot trust the investigation by the Malaysian police.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak responded by saying his country had no reason “to paint the North Koreans in a bad light,” and expressed “absolute confidence” in the objectivity of the investigation.
The 45-year-old Kim Jong Nam was accosted and believed to be poisoned by two women at Kuala Lumpur International Airport while waiting to board a flight bound for the Chinese territory of Macau. Japanese broadcaster Fuji TV aired grainy footage Monday taken by the airport’s security cameras that shows one of the women grabbing Kim from behind and forcibly holding something over his face.
After the attack, Kim is shown seeking help from airport workers while gesturing towards his eyes. He died en route to a hospital.
Four people have been detained in connection with the crime, including the two suspected assailants and a North Korean national, who was arrested Friday. Investigators are also seeking four North Korean men who flew out of Malaysia on the day of Kim’s death.
Kim Jong Nam was once considered the heir apparent to lead North Korea, but he fell out of favor with his father Kim Jong Il after a failed 2001 attempt to enter Japan on a forged passport to visit Disneyland, and was basically exiled to the Chinese controlled territory of Macau.
South Korea’s spy agency says Kim Jong Un issued a “standing order” for his half-brother’s assassination after taking power, and there was a failed attempt in 2012. During a National Security Council meeting Monday, South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said the deadly attack revealed Pyongyang’s “reckless and brutal nature.”
Kim Jong Nam was reportedly considered a threat to his half-brother’s rule because of his outspoken criticism of the authoritarian regime.
There has been speculation that China is getting tired of North Korea’s repeated nuclear and missile tests in defiance on international sanctions and that the apparent assassination of Kim John Nam may have led to the Chinese decision Saturday to suspend all coal imports from the North. Coal exports are a vital source of revenue for the Pyongyang government.