Testimony from Murder Trial Shows that Kim Jong-nam May Have Met With US Intelligence Agent

It looks like it is a strong possibility that Kim Jong-nam was meeting with a US intelligence agent a few days before he was assassinated by North Korean agents:

Kim Jong-nam

A police witness said Monday that the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader met with an unidentified Korean-American man on a Malaysian resort island four days before he was murdered, as the trial of two women accused of killing him resumed.

Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnam’s Doan Thi Huong, 29, are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur last Feb. 13. They pleaded not guilty to murder charges when their trial began Oct. 2. The two are the only suspects in custody, though prosecutors have said four North Koreans who fled the country were also involved.

Chief police investigating officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz told the court Monday that Kim flew from Macau to Kuala Lumpur last Feb. 6 and went to the northern island of Langkawi two days later. He said Kim met with the Korean-American at a Langkawi hotel the next day, but he didn’t know the man’s identity and it wasn’t related to the $138,000 in cash found in Kim’s backpack when he was murdered.

Wah Azirul was responding to questions from Gooi Soon Seng, Aisyah’s lawyer, who asked him to confirm a report by the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun that Kim had met in Langkawi with a US intelligence agent who was based in Bangkok.

“Until now, the identity of the man is not known,” Wan Azirul told the court. He said he could not remember the hotel name or whether the room was registered under Kim or the man, prompting a lashing from Gooi for his “severe lapse of memory.”  [NY Post]

You can read more at the link, but meeting with a US intelligence agent may have been the final straw for his younger brother Kim Jong-nam to finally decide to assassinate him.

How Female Assassin Siti Aisyah was Recruited By North Korean Agents to Murder Kim Jong-nam

Here is an interesting article from GQ magazine of all places that provides an in-depth look at how

Siti Aisyah, left, and Doan Thi Huong, the women recruited for the murder plot.

The female assassins had been identified on the CCTV footage with almost comic ease—the Vietnamese woman’s white jumper, adorned with LOL, proved easy to track through the grainy footage. Catching her was simple, too: Doan Thi Huong, 29, was arrested the day after the killing, when she returned to the airport. She had been born in a rural Vietnamese village, had her dreams of celebrity dashed when she lasted 20 seconds on Vietnam Idol, and ended up working as an escort in Hanoi, where she’d been recruited by an undercover North Korean agent.

At 2 A.M. the morning after the murder, Malaysian police marched through the dank hallways of the Flamingo Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, in which stained springless mattresses leaned against walls to air out during the day. In a third-floor room, the second alleged assassin, a 25-year-old from Indonesia named Siti Aisyah, had just finished servicing a Malaysian man and sent him on his way when the officers burst through the unlocked door.

From the CCTV footage, Doan’s and Siti’s guilt seemed clear until, under interrogation, they both separately explained that they thought they’d merely slathered Jong-nam with a harmless liquid for a hidden-camera TV show.  (………)

While both women’s lives followed a remarkably similar lopsided arc of disappointment from remote hamlets to seedy nightclubs to prison cells where they now face death, it was Siti’s footprints that I tracked across Asia because, having lived for three years in Indonesia, I had met dozens of vulnerable migrant women who could have suffered her fate. I felt like there was bound to be more to the story than the Malaysian police had reported. And sure enough, the truth I ultimately discovered was far more complicated than I ever could have imagined.

Siti was recruited by the North Koreans at 3 A.M. on January 5, 2017, outside a notorious bar in Kuala Lumpur. On paper, she worked as a masseuse in the Flamingo Hotel’s spa, but when I visited in July, a worker immediately asked, “You want to sleep with a Thai or Indonesian girl?” Later, one of Siti’s friends laughed when I said I’d heard she’d given massages there, declaring, “She was totally sex!”  [GQ Magazine]

You can read the rest of the elaborate scheme the North Koreans put together to recruit Aisyah to conduct the supposed comedy pranks.  Here is a very insightful part of the article:

Nam explained, “Pyongyang wanted to horrify the rest of the world by releasing a chemical weapon at an airport.” By unleashing such weaponry in a place symbolically shared by the global community—an international airport—North Korea was warning everyone not to cross it. As Nam concluded, “Jong-un wants to reign a long time and negotiate as a superpower. The only way to do that is to keep the world in fear of his weapons. He has a grand design, and this is part of it.”

In the end, Pyongyang suffered no significant consequences from the assassination. The people on death row for the murder are two Southeast Asian women, whom Nam believes are not guilty.

This is something world government will have to consider, in response to a preemptive strike against North Korea they could retaliate by releasing VX nerve agents in international airports.  If people thought the aftermath of 9-11 was bad for the airline industry could you imagine what would happen if multiple airports are targeted with VX nerve agents?

US Navy and Malaysian Authorities Continue Search for Missing USS John S. McCain Sailors

It seems like the odds of finding someone alive seem pretty remote, but lets all hope at least one of the missing is alive:

In this photo released by the Royal Malaysian Navy, the U.S guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, off Johor, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.

Ongoing search-and-rescue efforts for 10 missing USS John S. McCain sailors have turned up a number of bodies, Adm. Scott Swift, Pacific Fleet commander, told reporters Tuesday evening.

The Yokosuka-based guided-missile destroyer was traveling to Singapore for a routine port visit early Monday when it collided with the Liberian-flagged Alnic MC oil tanker east of the city-state, injuring five sailors and leaving 10 missing.

During a news conference at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base, Swift said that Navy and Marine Corps divers discovered remains while searching sealed compartments in damaged areas of the ship. The Malaysian navy also discovered remains that could be one of the missing sailors.

“We have a report from the Malaysians … that they have found a body,” Swift said. “We are in the process of effecting the transfer of that body so we can start the identification process and determine whether it’s one of the missing sailors or not. We have discovered other bodies during the diving on McCain today. The divers were able to locate some remains in those sealed compartments during their search.”  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but initially the damage to the ship at least visually doesn’t appear as bad as with the USS Fitzgerald.

Malaysia Expels North Korean Ambassador

Besides expelling the North Korean ambassador the government of Malaysia should close the embassy entirely:

North Korean embassy in Malaysia.

The Malaysian foreign ministry has cited North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol’s refusal to accept formal summons as the reason for its decision to expel him, official sources said Sunday.

On Saturday, Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced its decision to kick out North Korea’s ambassador, ordering him to leave the country by Monday 6 p.m.

The decision was the latest in a series of punitive actions Malaysia has taken in response to North Korea’s assassination of leader Kim Jong-un’s estranged half brother Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13.

Kang was told to show up for a meeting with a Malaysian foreign ministry official on Saturday evening, but neither he nor the North Korean Embassy responded, the Malaysian foreign ministry said in its statement. It said this failure to respond to the summons as the reason for Kang’s expulsion.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Malaysia Cancels Visa Waiver Program with North Korea and Releases Murder Suspect

Considering North Korea’s long criminal history it makes you wonder why the Malaysian government had a visa waiver program with North Korea in the first place?:

North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Malaysia has canceled its visa waiver arrangement with North Korea amid a diplomatic spat over the assassination of the half brother of the North’s leader, a news report said Thursday.

The cancellation will take effect on March 6, after which North Koreans entering Malaysia will be required to obtain a visa, Malaysian news agency Bernama quoted the country’s deputy prime minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, as saying. He cited national security as the reason.

This marks Malaysia’s first tangible action taken against Pyongyang following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13.  [Yonhap]

Here is the other development regarding the Kim Jong-nam murder case:

Malaysia has decided to release and deport Ri Jong-chol, a 47-year-old North Korean suspect, due to a lack of incriminating evidence, AP reported.

Four North Korean suspects are believed to have fled Malaysia on the day of Kim Jong-nam’s death while three others, including Hyon Kwang-song, the second secretary at the North’s embassy in Malaysia, are wanted for questioning.  [Yonhap]

I was curious to why Ri Jong-chol did not flee like the other North Korean agents if he was in fact part of the murder plot.  Considering Malaysian authorities had no evidence to convict him it appears he was not involved.

Picture of the Day: No VX Found In Kuala Lumpur Airport

Special personnel wearing protective clothes and masks operate equipment at the departure lobby of Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2 in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 26, 2017, looking for any trace of poison. The detection operation was made after VX nerve agent, a lethal chemical weapon, was found on the body of Kim Jong-nam, the murdered half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Yonhap)

Special personnel wearing protective clothes and masks operate equipment at the departure lobby of Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2 in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 26, 2017, looking for any trace of poison. The detection operation was made after VX nerve agent, a lethal chemical weapon, was found on the body of Kim Jong-nam, the murdered half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Yonhap)

Kim Jong-nam Assassin Was Once A Contestant on Vietnamese Version of American Idol

As if the murder of Kim Jong-nam could not get any more bizarre, now the VX nerve agent wielding assassin Doan Thi Huong has been identified as an aspiring singer who appeared recently on Vietnam’s version of American Idol:

A woman believed to be Huong appeared on the Vietnamese version of Pop Idol

Doan Thi Huong’s site features pouting party pictures including a snap of her wearing a shirt emblazoned ‘LOL’  similar to the one on the fleeing suspect caught on CCTV.

The photos were released amid claims she once starred on the Vietnamese version of Pop Idol.

The 28-year-old worked at a popular party venue, according to Malaysian police who have arrested her over the murder of Kim Jong Nam at a Malaysian airport .

On a rice farm in northern Vietnam, her family said they had hardly heard from her since she left home a decade ago aged just 18.

“At first we doubted it was her when we saw the picture with the ‘LOL’ shirt,” said stepmother Nguyen Thi Vy .

“But when someone bought a clearer picture here, we knew it was our Huong.

“If she committed the crime, she has to suffer, we can’t do anything… but I think she must have been set up by someone.”

Huong’s brother Doan Van Binh said he knew little about his sister’s life after she left the village.

“I encouraged her to study and earn money so that her future would be good,” he said.

“My family is very sad. We all thought she was in a good place.”

Huong posted to Facebook under the name Ruby Ruby, according to her 18-year-old niece, Dinh Thi Quyen.

The last post on a Facebook page – released by the respected AP news agency – is dated February 11 from Kampong Besut, Malaysia.

“I want to sleep more but by your side,” the post reads above a picture of her, eyes closed and wrapped up in bed.  [The UK Sun]

You can read much more about Huong at the link, but here is what Huong looks like when not covered in make up and wearing a LOL shirt:

A photo released by Malaysian police of Huong in custody

Malaysia Says North Korean Agents Used VX Nerve Agent To Kill Kim Jong-nam

I just don’t see how North Korea does not get put back on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List after this latest news that they used a weapon of mass destruction to kill someone within a busy airport:

A police officer checks his phone inside the forensic department at Kuala Lumpur Hospital in Malaysia Friday. Police announced the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent was used in the murder of Kim Jong-nam last week at the airport in Kuala Lumpur. [AP/YONHAP]

Malaysian police announced Friday that the poison used to kill Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was VX nerve agent, a type of chemical weapon.

“The chemical substance on the exhibits has been identified as VX nerve agent,” Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar said in a press briefing on Friday. The inspector general added that the chemical was detected from swabs of Kim’s eyes and face, citing a preliminary toxicology test by the Malaysian government’s chemistry department.

The odorless and colorless VX nerve agent is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies VX as “the most potent of all nerve agents.”

The Malaysian authorities said they are investigating how the internationally banned chemical weapon made its way into Malaysia.   [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but something I am wondering is how did the VX kill Kim Jong-nam, but not the two women who had it on their hands when they attacked him? Have the North Koreans developed a new type of VX agent that only kills when it makes contact with the eyes perhaps?

Finally according to the article it is believed that North Korea has 5,000 tons of sarin and VX nerve agents.  Seeing how effective this agent was with quickly killing Kim Jong-nam can you imagine what an aerial dispersal of this weapon would do if released in Seoul?