North Korea now even more lonely

Kim Jong-nam in 2001 © Getty images
The death of Kim Jong-nam has caused a diplomatic rift

North Korea could count on few friends even before the apparent poisoning of leader Kim Jong-un’s older half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, at Kuala Lumpur airport on 13 February, says the Daily Mail. The “fallout” is likely further to isolate the nuclear-armed state. Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur enjoy some bilateral trade and citizens can travel to each other’s countries under a “unique” reciprocal visa deal. Malaysia has also facilitated North Korea’s links with the outside world. All that is now at risk.

Malaysia has recalled its ambassador to Pyongyang and officially reprimanded Kang Chol, the North Korean envoy to Kuala Lumpur, for saying that his country would “categorically reject the result of the post-mortem”, says Richard Lloyd Parry in The Times. Chol accused Malaysia of “colluding with hostile forces” and said that its failure to hand over the body implied a cover-up.

Malaysian police have so far arrested four people, and are trying to trace four other North Korean men. The South Korean prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, endorsed his country’s intelligence agency’s verdict that the attack was carried out by the North Korean government.

Although there were “no signs” that Kim Jong-nam, 45, harboured ambitions to return home or had “encouraged the overthrow of the current regime”, Kim Jong-un could never “escape the assumption by many outsiders” that if his dictatorship was deposed, his older half-brother might be “tapped to lead a transition to a free, democratic North Korea”, says Alastair Gale in The New York Times. Since taking power in 2011, South Korean authorities estimate that Kim Jong-un has “purged” more than 100 senior officials and ordered the execution of his uncle, Jang Sung-taek, who was close to Kim Jong-nam.

This could test “Beijing’s patience with Pyongyang… like never before”, says the Financial Times. A resident of Macau, Kim Jong-nam was under Chinese protection and was believed to have been “harboured by Beijing as a potential alternative” to Kim Jong-un. Yet the status quo “beats the prospect” of the collapse of North Korea, which could see millions of refugees stream into China.

66% off newsstand price

12 issues (and much more) for just £12

That’s right. We’ll give you 12 issues of MoneyWeek magazine, complete access to our exclusive web articles, our latest wealth building reports and videos as well as our subscriber-only email… for just £12.

That’s just £1 per week for Britain’s best-selling financial magazine.

Click here to take advantage of our offer

Britain is leaving the European Union. Donald Trump is reducing America’s role in global markets. Both will have profound consequences for you as an investor.

MoneyWeek analyses the critical issues facing British investors on a weekly basis. And, unlike other publications, we provide you with the solutions to help you turn a situation to your financial advantage.

Take up our offer today, and we’ll send you three of our most important investment reports:

All three of these reports are yours when you take up our 12 issues for £12 offer today.

MoneyWeek has been advising private British investors on what to do with their money since 2000. Our calls over that period have enabled our readers to both make and save a great deal of money – hence our position as the UK’s most-trusted investment publication.

Click here to subscribe for just £12