The exiled half-brother of Kim Jong Un was a CIA informant who was killed after meeting his agency contact in Malaysia, sources tell the Wall Street Journal. One source says there was a "nexus" between the CIA and Kim Jong Nam, who died after a banned chemical weapon was smeared on his face in the Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. The insiders say Kim Jong Nam, who was based in the Chinese territory of Macau, had met with a Korean-American agent at a hotel on Malaysia's Langkawi Island, though it may not have been the main reason for his trip to the country. Former US officials tell the Journal that Kim Jong Nam was being eyed by countries including China as a potential replacement for his half-brother, though American agencies determined he was "ill-suited" for the role.
The Journal's sources say Kim Jong Nam was also believed to be in contact with intelligence agencies from other countries, though since he hadn't lived in North Korea since 2003, it's not clear how much information about the regime he would have been able to provide. The Washington Post's Beijing bureau chief also describes Kim as a CIA asset in her book The Great Successor, which will be published Tuesday, the Guardian reports. Kim Jong Nam "became an informant for the CIA," she writes. "His brother would have considered talking to American spies a treacherous act. But Kim Jong Nam provided information to them, usually meeting his handlers in Singapore or Malaysia." (With the two women accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam's face now free, analysts say it is unlikely anybody will ever be convicted of the murder.)