February, 2017

 

Trump seeks ‘historic’ increase of 9 percent in U.S. military’s budget

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is seeking what he called a “historic” 9 percent increase in military spending, even as the United States has wound down major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and remains the world’s strongest military power.

Trump will ask Congress to boost Pentagon spending in the next fiscal year by $54 billion in his first budget proposal and slash the same amount from non-defense spending, including a large reduction in foreign aid, a White House budget official said on Monday.

The president does not have the final say on federal spending. His plan for the military is part of a budget proposal to Congress, which although it is controlled by his fellow Republicans, will not necessarily follow his plans. Budget negotiations with lawmakers can take months to play out.

Trump told state governors at the White House that his budget plan included a “historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America.”

“This is a landmark event and message to the world in these dangerous times, of American strength, security and resolve. We must ensure that our courageous servicemen and women have the tools they need to deter war and when called upon to fight in our name, only do one thing: Win,” he said.

Officials familiar with Trump’s budget blueprint said the defense increase would be financed partly by cuts to the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other non-defense programs.

“We’re going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people,” Trump said.

Trump’s budget will not seek cuts in federal social programs such as Social Security and Medicare, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday.

Such a military spending hike would be unusual given that the United States is not engaged in a major war, although its special forces and Air Force are active against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

An official familiar with the proposal said Trump’s request for the Pentagon included more money for shipbuilding, military aircraft and establishing “a more robust presence in key international waterways and choke points” such as the Strait of Hormuz and South China Sea.

That could put Washington at odds with Iran and China. The United States already has the world’s most powerful fighting force and it spends far more than any other country on defense.

Defense spending in the most recent fiscal year was $584 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, so Trump’s planned $54 billion increase would be a rise of 9.2 percent. About one-sixth of the federal budget goes to military spending.

LARGE BUILDUP

Mark Cancian, an adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said Trump’s plan was in line with the kind of military spending seen before the Iraq war.

“This is certainly comparable to the largest peacetime buildups, which would be 2003,” said Cancian, who worked at the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department. He cautioned that the proposal was far from being a budget. “This is just giving everyone the top line.”

Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, said Trump’s plan to slash funding for federal agencies to free up money for the Pentagon showed he was not putting American working families first.

“A $54 billion cut will do far-reaching and long-lasting damage to our ability to meet the needs of the American people and win the jobs of the future,” Pelosi said. “The president is surrendering America’s leadership in innovation, education, science and clean energy.”

In a speech to conservative activists on Friday, Trump promised “one of the greatest military buildups in American history.”

A second official said the State Department’s budget could be cut by as much as 30 percent, which would force a major restructuring of the department and elimination of programs.

The United States spends about $50 billion annually on the State Department and foreign assistance.

More than 120 retired U.S. generals and admirals urged Congress on Monday to fully fund U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid, saying that “elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe.”

Trump has said previously he would expand the Army to 540,000 active-duty troops from its current 480,000, increase the Marine Corps to 36 battalions from 23 – or as many as 10,000 more Marines – boost the Navy to 350 ships and submarines from 276, and raise the number of Air Force tactical aircraft to 1,200 from 1,100.

He has not said where he would place the extra hardware and forces or made clear what they would be used for. The United States has been shutting some of its military bases in recent years.

Trump has also said he would bolster the development of missile defenses and cyber capabilities. Last week, he told Reuters the United States had “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.” He pledged to ensure that “we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

Trump also said on Monday he would talk about his plans for infrastructure spending in a speech to Congress on Tuesday. “We’re going to start spending on infrastructure big,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann, Doina Chiacu, Andy Sullivan, Idrees Ali and David Alexander; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)


China military says aware of U.S. carrier in South China Sea

(Reuters) – China’s defense ministry said on Thursday it was aware of the presence of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group in the South China Sea and China respected freedom of navigation for all countries in the waters there.

The U.S. navy said the strike group, including the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson, began “routine operations” in the South China Sea on Saturday amid growing tension with China over control of the disputed waterway.

Defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said China had a “grasp” of the situation regarding the carrier group in the South China Sea.

“China hopes the U.S. earnestly respects the sovereignty and security concerns of countries in the region, and earnestly respects the efforts of countries in the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Ren told a regular monthly news briefing.

“Of course, we also respect freedom of navigation and overflight for all countries in the South China Sea in accordance with international law,” he added.

The situation in the South China Sea was generally stable, Ren said.

“We hope the actions of the U.S. side can contribute positive energy towards this good situation, and not the opposite.”

Good military relations between the two countries are in interests of both, and well as of the region and the world, and China hoped the United States could meet China half way, strengthen communication and avoid misjudgment, Ren said.

Friction between the United States and China over trade and territory under U.S. President Donald Trump have increased concern that the South China Sea could become a flashpoint.

China wrapped up its own naval exercises in the South China Sea late last week. War games involving its only aircraft carrier have unnerved neighbors with which it has long had rival claims in the waters.

China lays claim to almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the waters that have rich fishing grounds, along with oil and gas deposits.

The United States has criticized China’s construction of man-made islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and expressed concern they could be used to restrict free of movement.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)


Florida man accused of Clinton Foundation hack to plead guilty

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Florida man accused of trying to hack the Clinton Foundation in 2015 is expected to plead guilty on Thursday, months after he was sentenced in a related case to 42 years in prison over child pornography discovered on his computers during the probe.

Timothy Sedlak, 43, is scheduled to plead guilty in federal court in Manhattan, according to court records. Prosecutors accused him in September 2015 of trying to gain access to an unnamed New York-based global charitable organization’s network.

Prosecutors have never named the organization. But a court filing obtained by Reuters said U.S. Secret Service agents in 2015 questioned Sedlak about notes they found referencing former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

Sedlak, who called himself a private investigator, told the agents he was researching whether charities were unintentionally providing funding to Islamic militant groups, and said the Clintons “came up in his research,” the filing said.

The filing’s description of the Clintons matched prosecutors’ descriptions of two previously unnamed individuals who were said to be an “executive” at the charity and an “individual who has been publicly affiliated” with it.

Chelsea Clinton is the vice chair of Clinton Foundation, which was founded by her father, former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Its full name is the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

The filing, a summary of a Secret Service agent’s interview with Sedlak, was downloaded by Reuters on Feb. 3 and soon after was replaced by a redacted version removing the Clintons’ names.

A spokeswoman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and Sedlak’s lawyer declined comment. Clinton Foundation representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

The investigation into Sedlak, of Ocoee, Florida, predated probes into cyber attacks on Democrats during the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. intelligence agencies in January released an assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a covert effort through the cyber attacks to help Republican Donald Trump’s electoral chances by discrediting Clinton.

Prosecutors have said that Sedlak launched about 390,000 unsuccessful attempts to gain unauthorized access to the charitable organization’s computer network.

Following his arrest, authorities discovered files on his computers containing child pornography, including a number of images depicting Sedlak himself sexually abusing a toddler, prosecutors said.

Sedlak as a result was separately charged in Florida, where a federal jury in Orlando in May found him guilty on charges including that he produced and possessed child pornography. He was sentenced in August to 42 years in prison.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)


Syrian negotiators arrive for Geneva peace talks

GENEVA (Reuters) – Syrian negotiators arrived separately to meet U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura in Geneva on Thursday in a low-key start to the first U.N.-led peace talks in almost a year.

Government negotiator Bashar al-Ja’afari, Syria’s ambassador to the U.N. in New York, and lead opposition negotiator Nasr al-Hariri arrived separately at the U.N. office in Geneva, resuming negotiations that have been on hold since April 2016.

The scope of the talks has been cut down to core political questions since last year, after a new initiative by Russia, Turkey and Iran took thorny military issues off the Geneva agenda and transferred them to a separate process in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Previous attempts to negotiate an end to the almost six-year-old conflict collapsed as violence escalated, especially around the city of Aleppo, which is now totally under the control of forces loyal to Syria’s government.

The Astana talks have ushered in a shaky ceasefire which excludes hardline jihadist groups such as Islamic State.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said warplanes carried out air strikes on rebel-held areas in Deraa and Hama provinces on Thursday and insurgents fired rockets at government targets. But the overall level of violence in western Syria was lower than in previous days.

A western diplomat said the opposition was aware that eastern Ghouta, a besieged rebel area on the outskirts of Damascus, was vulnerable to a government offensive. But opposition negotiators were not going to buckle under military pressure and walk out of talks, as in previous rounds.

“They know that Ghouta’s in trouble,” the diplomat said.

De Mistura plans to discuss Syria’s future governance arrangements, the process for drafting a new constitution, and a schedule for elections under U.N. supervision, as mandated by a U.N. resolution.

He has declined to say whether he will try to unify opposition groups in a single delegation for direct talks with the government.

He plans to welcome the delegations later on Thursday in the presence of diplomats, raising the prospect that he might bring the warring sides together in one room.

“The plan is to have some kind of opening ceremony in which he welcomes the parties,” the Western diplomat said.

Geneva talks in April last year never brought the negotiators together. Instead, de Mistura met the delegations in rotation, seeking points of common ground.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)


Bomb kills at least eight in shopping district in Pakistan’s Lahore

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (Reuters) – A bomb blast in an upscale shopping center in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore killed at least eight people and wounded 20 on Thursday, officials said, the latest in a surge of violence that has shaken the country.

Security forces cordoned off the residential neighborhood, also home to banks and coffee shops, rescue officials said, after what one bank worker said was a “frightening” explosion.

“We left the building and saw that the motor-bikes parked outside were on fire and all the windows in the surrounding buildings were shattered,” Mohammad Khurram told Reuters.

Punjab police spokesman Nayab Haider told Reuters the explosion was caused by a “planted bomb” that was either time- or remotely detonated.

No one was allowed to leave or enter the area because the bomber was suspected to be at large, officials said.

Reports of a second explosion turned out to be a tire blowout that caused panic due to the tense atmosphere in the city, a government official said.

Pakistan has been struck by a wave of militant attacks in recent weeks, killing at least 130 people across the country and leaving hundreds wounded. The worst of the attacks was at a Sufi shrine in southern Sindh province that killed 90 people.

Thursday’s bombing was the second attack in Lahore in two weeks. A suicide bombing on Feb. 13 killed at least 13 people and wounded more than 80 at a protest near the provincial assembly.

Government and military officials have vowed extensive operations to hunt down militants across the country and Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan has been shut down due to security concerns.

After the shrine bombing, Pakistani security forces said they had killed more than 100 suspected militants in targeted campaigns across the country.

(Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Nick Macfie)


Dakota pipeline protest camp nearly empty as holdouts face removal

CANNON BALL, N.D. (Reuters) – All but a few dozen of the last holdouts from a months-long mass protest against a proposed oil pipeline in North Dakota peacefully vacated their riverside camp as an eviction deadline passed on Wednesday.

“We’ve very firm that the camp is now closed,” Governor Doug Burgum, a Republican, told an evening news conference.

Following Wednesday’s exodus, Burgum estimated there were 25 to 50 protesters left. He said they were still free to leave voluntarily so long as they did not interfere with cleanup crews scheduled to enter the site at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

The encampment has stood since August on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property at the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, about 40 miles south of Bismarck, the state capital.

Protesters calling themselves “water protectors” have rallied there against plans to route the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the reservation, saying the project poses a threat to water resources and sacred tribal sites.

Dubbed the Oceti Sakowin camp, the site became a focal point for U.S. environmental activists and Native Americans expressing indigenous rights, drawing some 5,000 to 10,000 protesters at the height of the movement in early December.

Most have drifted since away, as tribal leaders urged people to leave due to harsh winter weather, while pressing their opposition to the pipeline in court. Roughly 300 demonstrators had remained until this week.

Protesters and police have clashed multiple times since August, with more than 700 arrests tallied.

On Wednesday authorities appeared intent on avoiding clashes, though 10 arrests were made as protesters confronted police in riot gear on a highway outside the camp entrance before the officers retreated around nightfall.

President Donald Trump has pushed for completion of the pipeline since he took office last month, signing an executive order that reversed an Obama administration decision and cleared the way for the $3.8 billion project to proceed.

Two tribes earlier this month lost a legal bid to halt construction. The pipeline is due to be complete and ready for oil by April 1, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

DEADLINE ON THE RIVER

Burgum and the Army Corps of Engineers had set Wednesday’s deadline for protesters to leave, citing hazards posed by impending spring floods along the Cannonball River.

The governor said the handful of demonstrators who remained needed to make way for crews set to expand a cleanup that began weeks ago to remove mounds of garbage, debris, human waste and dozens of abandoned vehicles.

At least three dozen protesters could be seen gathering near the camp entrance as the afternoon eviction deadline passed, and a few dozen others were believed lingering elsewhere at the site. Some vowed to stay put.

“I feel as though now is the time to stand our ground,” said Alethea Phillips, 17, a demonstrator from Michigan who had spent three months at the camp.

Chase Iron Eyes, a Standing Rock Sioux member, said closing the camp would not dampen his determination.

“You can’t arrest a movement. You can’t arrest a spiritual revolution,” he said.

Activists set off fireworks on Wednesday morning, and as freezing rain and snow fell, some demonstrators ceremonially burned tents and other structures at the camp.

State officials said protesters had set about 20 fires, and that two youngsters – a 7-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl – were taken to a Bismarck hospital for burns after two explosions occurred, the governor said.

Authorities have set up an assistance center to provide departing protesters with food, water and medical check-ups, as well as a voucher for one night’s hotel stay and a bus ride home.

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester in Cannon Ball, North Dakota and Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Diane Craft and Simon Cameron-Moore)


Malaysia requests Interpol alert on four North Koreans over airport murder

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia has requested Interpol to put an alert out to apprehend four North Korean suspects in the murder of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Malaysia’s police chief said on Thursday.

Kim Jong Nam, who was killed in Kuala Lumpur’s main airport on Feb. 13, had spoken out publicly in the past against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed state.

South Korean and U.S. officials say he was assassinated by North Korean agents. North Korea has not acknowledged his death.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the two women – one Vietnamese, one Indonesian – arrested last week had been paid for carrying out the fatal assault on Kim Jong Nam using a fast-acting poison.

He declined to say if they had been used by a foreign intelligence agency.

Police are also holding one North Korean man, but are seeking another seven in connection with the murder.

Hyon Kwang Song, a second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Kim Uk Il, an employee of state-owned airline Air Koryo, are among three North Koreans wanted for questioning who are still believed to be in Malaysia.

Khalid told reporters that a request had been made to Interpol to put out an alert to apprehend the other four, who are believed to have made their way back to North Korea, having fled Malaysia on the day of the killing..

Khalid said a police request has been sent to the North Korean embassy requesting to interview the diplomat and airline employee.

“If you have nothing to hide, you should not be afraid to cooperate, you should cooperate,” Khalid said.

He said an arrest warrant would not be issued for the embassy official, as he has diplomatic immunity, but that “the process of the law will take place” if the airline official does not come forward.

Earlier on Thursday, an official from the North Korea embassy in Kuala Lumpur said no formal request to interview either man had been received, and he did not respond when asked if the embassy would cooperate should it receive one.

Meantime, Indonesia has sought consular access to Siti Aishah, the Indonesian woman held in detention.

“I have instructed our foreign minister to provide assistance…and protection to Siti Aishah through a lawyer. So there can be some clarity on whether or not she is a victim,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in Jakarta.

DIPLOMATIC ROW

A friendship between Malaysia and North Korea, going back to the 1970s, has soured in the wake of Kim Jong Nam’s murder.

North Korea unsuccessfully tried to prevent an autopsy, accusing Malaysia of working with South Korean and other “hostile forces.”

Malaysia responded by recalling its ambassador to Pyongyang for consultations.

North Korea’s ambassador to Kuala Lumpur has said the Malaysian investigation cannot be trusted, and that the three suspects that have been detained should be released immediately.

And on Thursday, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency reported that Pyongyang blamed Malaysia for its citizen’s death and accused it of adopting an “unfriendly attitude”.

The KCNA report only referred to the murder victim as a “citizen”, as Pyongyang rejects reports that it is the half brother of the country’s leader.

Malaysian police have still to receive DNA samples from Kim Jong Nam’s next of kin, Khalid said. He also denied that Malaysian police officers had been sent to Macau, the Chinese territory where Kim Jong Nam and his family had been living under Beijing’s protection.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)


Trump revokes Obama guidelines on transgender bathrooms

(Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday revoked landmark guidance to public schools letting transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice, reversing a signature initiative of former Democratic President Barack Obama.

Reversing the Obama guidelines stands to inflame passions in the latest conflict in America between believers in traditional values and social progressives, and is likely to prompt more of the street protests that followed Trump’s Nov. 8 election.

Obama had instructed public schools last May to let transgender students use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity, threatening to withhold funding for schools that did not comply. Transgender people hailed the step as victory for their civil rights.

Trump, a Republican who took office last month, rescinded those guidelines, even though they had been put on hold by a federal judge, arguing that states and public schools should have the authority to make their own decisions without federal interference.

The Justice and Education departments will continue to study the legal issues involved, according to the new, superseding guidance that will be sent to public schools.

About 200 people gathered in front of the White House to protest against Trump’s action, waving rainbow flags and chanting: “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.”

The rainbow flag is the symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, people.

“We all know that Donald Trump is a bully, but his attack on transgender children today is a new low,” said Rachel Tiven, chief executive of Lambda Legal, which advocates for LGBT people.

Conservatives such as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who spearheaded the lawsuit challenging the Obama guidance, hailed the Trump administration action.

“Our fight over the bathroom directive has always been about former President Obama’s attempt to bypass Congress and rewrite the laws to fit his political agenda for radical social change,” said Paxton, a Republican.

Transgender legal advocates have criticized the “states’ rights” argument, saying federal law and civil rights are matters for the federal government to enforce, not the states.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration was pressed to act now because of the pending U.S. Supreme Court case, G.G. versus Gloucester County School Board.

That case pits a Virginia transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, against officials who want to deny him use of the boys’ room at his high school.

Although the Justice Department is not a party in the case, it typically would want to make its views heard. The Trump administration action on Wednesday also withdrew an Education Department letter in support of Grimm’s case.

“I’ve faced my share of adversaries in rural Virginia. I never imagined that my government would be one of them. We will not be beaten down by this administration,” Grimm, 17, told the protest outside the White House.

COURTS MAY HAVE FINAL SAY

The federal law in question, known as Title IX, bans sex discrimination in education. But it remains unsettled whether Title IX protections extend to a person’s gender identity.

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the Obama guidelines “did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman vowed to ensure Title IX and his state’s civil rights protections are enforced.

“President Trump’s decision to rescind anti-discrimination protections for transgender students is yet another cruel move by an administration committed to divisive policies that roll back the clock on civil rights,” he said in a statement.

The courts are likely to have the final say over whether Title IX covers transgender students. The Supreme Court could pass on that question in the Virginia case and allow lower courts to weigh in, or go ahead and decide what the law means.

Obama’s Education Department issued the guidance in response to queries from school districts across the country about how to accommodate transgender students in gender-segregated bathrooms.

It also covered a host of other issues, such as the importance of addressing transgender students by their preferred names and pronouns and schools’ responsibility to prevent harassment and bullying of transgender children.

Thirteen states led by Texas sued to stop the Obama guidelines, and a U.S. district judge in Texas temporarily halted their full implementation.

The White House previously boasted of Trump’s support for LGBT rights, noting in a Jan. 31 statement that he was the first Republican presidential nominee to mention the community in his nomination acceptance speech.

“Revoking the guidance shows that the president’s promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric,” James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT project, said in a statement.

(Reporting and writing by Daniel Trotta in New York; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Jeff Mason, Julia Edwards Ainsley, Mana Rabiee and Emily Stephenson in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney)

 


French far-right’s Le Pen refuses to wear headscarf to meet Lebanon’s Grand Mufti

(Reuters) – Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate for France’s far-right National Front party, canceled a meeting on Tuesday with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti after refusing to wear a headscarf for the encounter.

“You can pass on my respects to the Grand Mufti, but I will not cover myself up,” Le Pen told reporters.

The press office for the Grand Mufti said that Le Pen’s aides had been informed beforehand of their requirement for her to wear head covering for the meeting.

Le Pen has been visiting Lebanon as she seeks to bolster her presidential credentials.

Opinion polls say Le Pen is likely to get the highest score in the first round of voting in April, but then lose to a mainstream candidate in the decisive second round vote in May.

(Reporting by Simon Carraud and Angus McDowall; Writing by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by John Irish)


Malaysia says still to establish what killed North Korean

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian authorities said on Tuesday they had still to establish what was used to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and the body had not been formally identified as no next of kin have come forward.

Kim Jong Nam was killed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13 with what police believe was a fast-acting poison. Malaysia’s deputy prime minister has previously named the victim as Kim Jong Nam, though authorities have been unable to conduct DNA tests.

“The cause of death and identity are still pending,” Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, director general of health at Malaysia’s health ministry, told reporters.

The health ministry official said no DNA samples had been received from the next of kin.

South Korean and U.S. officials have said they believe North Korean agents assassinated Kim Jong Nam, who had been living in the Chinese territory of Macau under Beijing’s protection.

Malaysia has urged Kim Jong Nam’s next-of-kin to claim the body and help with the inquiry, which has sparked a diplomatic row with North Korea, whose officials want the body handed over directly.

Malaysia recalled its envoy from Pyongyang after North Korea’s ambassador in Kuala Lumpur cast doubt on the impartiality of Malaysia’s investigation and said the victim was not Kim Jong Nam.

North Korean ambassador Kang Chol said on Monday that his country “cannot trust” Malaysia’s handling of the probe into the killing.

Responding on Tuesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak denounced the ambassador’s comments and reiterated that the investigation would be fair.

“The statement by the ambassador was totally uncalled for. It was diplomatically rude. But Malaysia will stand firm,” Najib told reporters.

Authorities have still to release an autopsy report.

But, the health ministry official said a post mortem examination carried out two days after the death found no evidence of a heart attack or of any puncture wounds on the body.

Malaysian police have arrested a North Korean suspect, and say that four other North Koreans fled the country later on the day of the attack.

Two women from Vietnam and Indonesia have also been arrested on suspicion of carrying out the assault on Kim Jong Nam. There is speculation that they administered a poison by wiping it or spraying it on his face.

Airport camera footage released on Monday by Japanese broadcaster Fuji TV shows the moment the women appeared to assault Kim Jong Nam, who is later seen asking airport officials for medical help.

Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of that footage.

(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)