Besides revealing that Kim Jong-nam was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) informant, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has claimed that the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met his CIA handlers in Singapore and Malaysia before his untimely death.
Citing “a person knowledgeable about the matter,” WSJ said that Kim Jong-nam had met his CIA handlers in Malaysia and Singapore and that he had been in Malaysia for a top-secret meeting with his CIA contact before he was attacked and killed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The WSJ source claimed that there was a “nexus” between the US intelligence agency and Kim Jong-nam although it is unclear whether he possessed valuable information since he did not have very many connections in North Korea.
WSJ reported that Kim Jong-nam “had no known power base in Pyongyang [and] was unlikely to be able to provide details of the secretive country’s inner workings.”
The Washington Post’s bureau chief Anna Fifield had previously written that “Kim Jong Nam became an informant for the CIA…His brother would have considered talking to American spies a treacherous act. But Kim Jong Nam provided information to them, usually meeting his handlers in Singapore or Malaysia.”
Singapore is the same place Kim Jong-un met US President Donald Trump, at the historic first meeting between the US and North Korea last year.
Kim Jong-nam was the eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. From roughly 1994 to 2001, he was considered the heir apparent to his father.
He was thought to have fallen out of favour after embarrassing the regime in 2001 with a failed attempt to visit Tokyo Disneyland with a false passport, although Kim himself said his loss of favour had been due to advocating reform. He was later exiled from North Korea and became an occasional critic of his family’s regime.
His estranged younger paternal half-brother, Kim Jong-un, was named heir apparent in September 2010 and now leads North Korea.
On 13 February 2017, Kim died after being exposed to VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. An Indonesian woman, Siti Aisyah, and a Vietnamese woman, Doan Thi Huong, were charged with murder but said they thought they were part of a TV prank.
In March 2019, Siti Aisyah was freed after the charge against her was dropped. In April, the murder charge against Huong was also dropped, and she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of “voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means”. She was sentenced to three years and four months in prison, but received a one-third reduction in her term, and was released on 3 May 2019.
It was widely believed that he was killed on the orders of his Kim Jong-un but North Korea has vehemently denied any involvement in the elder Kim’s death. There have been rumours that Kim Jong-un issued orders to kill his half-brother when he came into power, resulting in at least two botched assassination attempts in 2010 and 2012.