South Korean agencies said today they could not confirm a report that the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was a US intelligence source and had travelled to Malaysia to meet his CIA contact before being assassinated there in 2017.
Officials at South Korea's National Intelligence Service and Unification Ministry, which oversees ties with North Korea, said they couldn't confirm Monday's report by The Wall Street Journal, which attributed the details to an unidentified "person knowledgeable about the matter".
It's extremely difficult for outside governments and media to verify information about North Korea and members of its secretive ruling family because Pyongyang closely watches visitors and enforces a stringent information blockade on its citizens.
Outside media have a chequered history of relying on sources purporting to reveal secret information about the North that's later proven incorrect or incomplete.
The Journal said Kim Jong Nam met on several occasions with CIA operatives, but also that many details of his relationship with the agency remain unclear.
Messages left with the CIA weren't immediately returned.
Kim Jong Nam was killed on February 13, 2017, when two young women smeared VX nerve agent on his face at a Kuala Lumpur International Airport terminal.
Murder charges were dropped against the women earlier this year. They had been accused of colluding with four North Koreans who prosecutors said had fled the country the day of the attack.
Lawyers for the women have said they were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The US and South Korea, too have blamed North Korea, but Malaysian officials never officially accused Pyongyang of involvement.
Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea's ruling family and could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un's rule.