North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother Kim Jong Nam, whose 2017 death is suspected of being ordered by the current dictator, was an informant for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to a new report.
Kim Jong Nam met with CIA agents numerous times, although their relationship was unclear since he did not live in North Korea nor hold a position of power, an anonymous source told The Wall Street Journal exclusively on Monday.
The elder, exiled Kim brother lived primarily in Macau and was said to have communications with intelligence agencies of other countries, including China’s.
The source told the Wall Street Journal that Kim Jong Nam was reportedly in Malaysia to meet with his CIA contact in February 2017 – around the time of his murder.
While it’s unclear if the meeting was the primary purpose of Kim Jong Nam’s presence in Malaysia, police who testified in his later murder trial said they witnessed Kim Jong Nam meeting with a Korean-American man, which they suspected to be a U.S. intelligence agent.
WSJ’s source said that U.S. intelligence officials were relieved that Kim Jong Nam’s connection with the CIA remained secret around the time of his death.
Kim Jong Nam was assassinated in February 2017 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia when two women ambushed him and smeared a chemical nerve agent in his face, which killed him.
The two women, Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, were faced with murder charges.
Aisyah’s charges were dropped and she was released in March, after the Indonesian government determined she was “deceived and did not realize at all that she was being manipulated by North Korean intelligence,” the Associated Press reported in March.
Huong was later released in May.
The CIA has long focused on North Korea to extract intelligence, which has been a feat given the lack of a U.S. embassy there. The agency has reportedly gone to great lengths to gather information on the country.
Former State Department official Joel Wit said the CIA routinely uses sources in North Korea to gather information on weapons programs and exports.
Much of Kim Jong Nam’s relationship with the CIA is detailed in the book released today, “The Great Successor,” written by Washington Post reported Anna Fifield, which details the life and family ties of Kim Jong Un, though described Kim Jong Nam as living a separate life from his younger siblings.
Kim Jong Nam was once thought of being a potential successor to his father’s rule, and it’s been suspected that his younger brother ordered his assassination to eliminate a threat to his rule.