While Malaysia remains tight-lipped about what it plans to do with the body of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who was killed on February 13 at a Malaysian airport, a newspaper in Malaysiareported Monday that the government has made a decision to hand the corpse over to North Korea soon.
Responding to reporters' questions on March 26 on the possibility of Kim's corpse being returned to North Korea, Malaysian Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said it was "very likely", Singapore's Lianhe Zaobao newspaper reported.
The death has resulted in a fierce diplomatic dispute between two countries that once had strong ties.
What Malaysia eventually does with the body, and how far it pursues three North Koreans wanted for questioning, and believed to be hiding in the North Korean embassy, are central to negotiations to resolve a diplomatic row between the two formerly friendly governments, sources aware of the talks have told Reuters.
Regarding media reports Monday that the body was moved out of IPFN and returned to the mortuary, Dr Subramaniam said it was news to him.
"There have been a lot of rumors that the body was cremated but we would not do this without the responsible parties giving us directives or agreement", Health Minister S. Subramaniamtold reporters. It was reportedly removed from the morgue just a day earlier to be sent to North Korea via China.
"The body is still in the morgue at Hospital Kuala Lumpur", Subramaniam said, adding it would remain there until the government had decided what to do.
"As far as I know, the body has always been in HKL".
Relations between Malaysia and North Korea have frayed since Kim's death, with each expelling the other's ambassador.
North Korea then blocked all Malaysians from leaving until a "fair settlement" of the case was reached. Malaysia responded in kind, barring North Koreans from exiting its soil.
Both countries also scrapped visa-free travel for each other's citizens. According to Malaysian investigators, two young women went up to Kim as he waited for a flight and smeared VX nerve agent a banned chemical weapon across his face.
The women - one Indonesian, one Vietnamese - have been charged with murder but say they were duped into thinking they were playing a harmless prank.
Although Malaysia has never directly accused North Korea of being behind the attack, many speculate that Pyongyang must have orchestrated it.
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