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North Korea Says Kim Jong Nam Likely Died of a Heart Attack

North Korea requested that no autopsy occur, Malaysian officials conducted an post-mortem that they said found the chemical on Kim’s eyes and face.
Image: Kim Jong Nam
An immigration officer escorts Kim Jong Nam, son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, getting off a bus to board an ANA905 (All Nippon Airways) airplane at Narita airport near Tokyo on May 4, 2001 .Toshifumi Kitamura / AFP - Getty Images, file

A North Korean official suggested Thursday that Kim Jong Nam was not murdered by assassins using poison on the orders of his half-brother's secretive regime, but instead died of a natural heart attack.

Kim — who was the estranged sibling of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — died shortly after collapsing at the airport in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13.

Malaysian officials have charged two women with Kim Jong Nam's murder, accusing them of smearing him with the highly toxic nerve agent VX.

Despite North Korea requesting that no autopsy occur, Malaysian officials conducted a post-mortem that they said found the chemical on Kim’s eyes and face.

The incident has triggered a diplomatic battle between the two countries amid speculation that the alleged assassins were acting on orders of the North Korean government.

However, all of this was disputed by Ri Tong Il, a spokesman for the North Korean delegation that arrived in Malaysia this week.

"He has a record of ... heart disease," Ri told reporters outside the North Korean Embassy. "Therefore this is a strong indication that the cause of the death is a heart attack."

He added that Kim Jong Nam was on medication for heart disease and diabetes.

Kim Jong Nam in 2010.AFP / AFP/Getty Images

North Korea has refused to acknowledge Kim Jong Nam’s identity, instead calling him "Kim Chol," the fake name on his passport.

The government spokesman also asked why, if the two suspects murdered Kim with VX, did they not get ill?

"They are the ones who directly contained the liquid on their palms of the hands to apply to the face," Ri said.

Malaysian police have previously said that both women washed their hands immediately after the alleged incident and that one of them vomited.

Ri, the North Korean spokesman, said that if VX was indeed used it should be sent to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

"They should come to identify who is the one who made it, who is the one who brought it into Malaysia, who is the one who passed on this material to the two ladies," he said.

Experts say that because VX is very hard to synthesize, other than in a government-level laboratory, it points to the North Korean regime being behind the attack.

The Associated Press contributed.