KUALA LUMPUR /Â AP
Malaysian police said on Saturday that they would issue an arrest warrant for a North Korean diplomat if he refuses to cooperate with the investigation into the deadly attack on North Korean ruler Kim Jong Unâ€™s exiled half brother.
The investigation has unleashed a serious diplomatic fight between Malaysia and North Korea, a prime suspect in the Feb. 13 killing of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpurâ€™s airport. Fridayâ€™s revelation by Malaysian police that the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim raised the stakes significantly in a case that has broad geopolitical implications.
Police said on Saturday that they would conduct a sweep of the airport terminal where Kim was killed to check for possible traces of VX.
Experts say the nerve agent used in the attack was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory and is banned under an international treaty. But North Korea never signed that treaty, and has spent decades developing a complex chemical weapons program.
Kim was not an obvious political threat to his estranged half brother, Kim Jong Un. But he may have been seen as a potential rival in North Koreaâ€™s dynastic dictatorship, even though he had lived in exile for years. North Korea has denied any role in the attack.
Malaysia said earlier in the week that Hyon Kwang Song, a second secretary at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, was wanted for questioning. But authorities at the time acknowledged that he has diplomatic immunity and that they couldnâ€™t compel him to appear.
On Saturday, Malaysiaâ€™s tone changed. Abdul Samah Mat, the police chief leading the investigation, said authorities would give the diplomat â€œreasonableâ€ time to come forward. If he doesnâ€™t, police will issue a notice compelling him to do so. â€œAnd if he failed to turn up … then we will go to the next step by getting a warrant of arrest from the court,â€ Abdul Samah told reporters.
Lawyer Sankara Nair, however, noted that diplomats have immunity privileges even in criminal cases. â€œIf he is a Korean diplomat with a diplomatic passport, then he has immunity no matter a criminal case or otherwise,â€ he said. â€œPolice can apply for a warrant, but it can easily be set aside by the embassy.â€