Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was widely reported to have been assassinated in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, but Malaysian authorities now say they will not turn over his body to Pyongyang without DNA proof of his identity.
CNN reported on Friday that Selangor state Police Chief Abdul Samah Mat said without DNA from a next of kin, Malaysia authorities would decline to hand over Kim Jong Nam's body -- or release autopsy results. As of Friday, three people have been arrested in the case.
The North Korean embassy made the request for the body on Thursday -- and previously tried to thwart an autopsy from being conducted, Reuters reported.
"We are still waiting for the next of kin application, we have not received it yet. We have only received the application from the North Korean embassy yesterday," said the police chief, as quoted by Reuters. "We need to collect DNA samples from the next-of-kin in order to get conclusive evidence on the victim's identity."
Kim Jong Nam was a "hunted heir," a former would-be leader of the Hermit Kingdom, according to the New York Times. But he fell outside of favor with the North Korean power structure, and there has been a "standing order" for his death since at least 2011, when his younger half brother Kim Jong Un came to power.
The possible political killing has rankled Pyongyang's sometimes-allies in Beijing.
"China's inner circle of government is highly nervous about this. ... Kim Jong Nam's assassination makes China more aware of how unpredictable and cruel the current North Korean regime is, as well as Kim Jong Un's willingness to abandon China and sell it for his own benefit at any second," Wang Weimin, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai told The Washington Post.
China's foreign ministry has remained officially mum, commenting that is has "noticed relevant media reports and is closely following developments." The Post and the New York Review of Books have noted that the deceased received protection from Chinese bodyguards.