Inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar denied that Malaysian police had wrongly identified Kim Jong-nam as a South Korean national and that the force alerted Seoul's embassy in Kuala Lumpur soon after his death.
"Nonsense," Khalid is quoted by Chinese daily Nanyang Siang Pau as saying today.
In fact, he said, the police first notified North Korea embassy, which sent its official and revealed that the deceased was Jong-nam.
"They, however denied the deceased was Kim Jong-nam, and said he was Kim Chol, as stated in his passport," added the top cop.
Police then referred to the slain half-brother of North Korea leader Kim Jong-un as Kim Chol, until his real identity was confirmed on the third day after his death on Feb 13.
Jong-nam was murdered with the deadly VX nerve agent that was wiped on his face at KLIA2, just before his flight to Macau.
Wire service Reuters quoted a source saying that the Malaysia authorities, after examining Jong-nam's passport, confused the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name of North Korea, with the Republic of Korea, the official name of its estranged southern neighbour.
The source said the authorities contacted the South Korean embassy, sending along copies of documents found on Kim’s body. After the mix-up was realised, North Korea’s diplomatic mission in Kuala Lumpur was informed, on the same day of the murder.
Reuters reported that the confusion over Jong-nam’s nationality also explained why it was the South Korean media that initially broke the news of the death.