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Kim Jong Nam's body still in Malaysia, says minister

The body of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is still in Malaysia, a minister has said, dismissing reports that the remains of Kim Jong Nam were about to be flown out of the country as part of diplomatic negotiations.

Conflicting reports in local media on Monday said either that Mr Kim's body was to be cremated and flown to Pyongyang, or that the body was to be sent to Macau where his family is believed to be.

Malaysian health minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said on Tuesday that the body was still in a Kuala Lumpur morgue pending negotiations with North Korea.

The death has sparked a diplomatic dispute, with the countries imposing exit bans on each other's citizens.

Malaysian authorities say Mr Kim was killed on February 13 after two women smeared his face with the banned VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur's airport.

North Korea - widely suspected of being behind the attack - rejects the findings.

Mr Subramaniam said: "I need to check with my forensic department whether there is any requirement for them to take the body out.

"But as far as we are concerned, there has been no change."

Amid the diplomatic dispute, Malaysian officials have pledged to secure the release of nine Malaysians - three embassy staff and six family members - stranded in Pyongyang but have been tight-lipped on the negotiations.

About 315 North Koreans are in Malaysia but the focus is on three of the seven North Korean suspects wanted by police in connection with Mr Kim's death.

Police have said the three men, including the embassy's second official and a worker with North Korean carrier Air Koryo, are believed to be hiding in the embassy.

Four others left the country on the day of the killing.

Confusion set in after local media reported that Mr Kim's body was taken out of the morgue late on Sunday.

Later reports then said it had been returned to the hospital due to technical problems with airline cargo.

Mr Subramaniam said the government will keep the body until a solution is found "to this problem".

"Once they finish the discussion and come to a definite decision, we will make an announcement," he said, in reference to the negotiations.

The countries have each expelled the other's ambassador.

North Korea then blocked all Malaysians from leaving until a "fair settlement" of the case was reached.

Malaysia followed suit by barring North Koreans from exiting its soil.

Both countries also scrapped visa-free travel for each other's citizens.

Although Malaysia has never directly accused North Korea of being behind the attack, many speculate that Pyongyang must have orchestrated it.

Experts say the VX nerve agent used to kill Mr Kim was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory, and North Korea is widely believed to possess large quantities of chemical weapons.

The attack was caught on surveillance video that shows two women going up to Mr Kim and apparently smearing something on his face.

He was dead within 20 minutes, authorities say.

The women - one Indonesian, one Vietnamese - have been charged with murder but say they were duped into thinking they were playing a harmless prank.

AP

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