Kuala Lumpur, March 14 (IANS) The Malaysian government announced on Tuesday that the corpse of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was embalmed in Kuala Lumpur to preserve it until it is claimed by relatives.
"Because if it was kept in the mortuary, the body might decompose so we did this to preserve the body," Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the media during a press conference.
The embalming of the 45-year-old Kim Jong-nam, who died on February 13 after being sprayed in the face with the toxic VX nerve agent, comes amid a heated diplomatic row between North Korea and Malaysia over the police investigation into the alleged murder.
Pyongyang maintains that Kim Jong-nam died of cardiac arrest and criticised the Malaysian probe as a propaganda ploy aligned with South Korean and US interests.
As a response, Malaysia on March 6 expelled the North Korean ambassador and now plans to deport 50 North Korean workers from Sarawak on Borneo island, while Pyongyang is holding nine Malaysians hostage inside the country.
Malaysian Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam on Monday gave Kim Jong-nam's next of kin up to three weeks to claim the now-embalmed body.