Malaysia expels North Korean ambassador after Kim Jong Nam murder

The cover of a Chinese magazine features a portrait of Kim Jong Nam, the late half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on February 27, 2017. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Mar 04, 2017, 02.51 PM (IST)

Malaysia on Saturday expelled the North Korean ambassador to the country, declaring him "persona non grata" and asking the envoy to leave Malaysia within 48 hours.

The move comes nearly three weeks after Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was murdered at Kuala Lumpur's airport with a toxic nerve agent. US and South Korean officials have said he was killed by agents of the North Korean regime.

NBC reported that a North Korean official disputed the cause of death, suggesting Kim Jong Nam wasn't murdered by assassins who used poison on the orders of his half-brother's secretive regime, but rather died of a natural heart attack.

North Korea requested that no autopsy be conducted, NBC reports, but Malaysia did one anyway and found the nerve agent VX on Kim Jong Nam's eyes and face. 

Two women were caught on camera in the airport, smearing Kim Jong Nam's face. He died twenty minutes later. 

Kang Chol, North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia, said last month his country "cannot trust" Malaysia's handling of the probe, and also accused the country of "colluding with outside forces" in a veiled reference to bitter rival South Korea.

Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Haji Aman said in a statement on Saturday that Malaysia had demanded an apology from the ambassador for his comments, but none was forthcoming.

"Malaysia will react strongly against any insults made against it or any attempt to tarnish its reputation," Anifah said.

(WION with inputs from Reuters)