Kim Jong Un’s half brother Kim Jong Nam was an informant for the Central Intelligence Agency who met more than once with unspecified “agency operatives” before he was killed with VX nerve toxin in a Malaysian airport in February 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday—albeit citing a “person knowledgeable with the matter.”
The Journal wrote that details of the late Kim’s involvement with the CIA “remain unclear,” but it does mention that “former U.S. officials and analysts” believed certain other countries including China may have considered him a potential successor to his half brother.
Beyond that, it doesn’t appear that Kim Jong Nam was the recipient of much confidence in the intelligence community. “Several former U.S. officials” told the Journal that intelligence agencies had deemed the exiled half brother, who lived in Macau, was unlikely to ever rise to power and was unlikely to have any useful information on his brother’s doings (or, say, nuclear program). A former State Department official, Joel Wit, told the Journal he was generally skeptical of the CIA’s ability to develop sources within North Korea:
Joel Wit, a former State Department official and senior fellow at the Stimson Center think tank, said the CIA occasionally has had useful sources among North Korean defectors who supplied information on topics like the country’s weapons program and missile exports.
More frequently, he said, “My experience has been that the CIA has repeatedly thought that it had well-placed sources in North Korea, human sources, that really knew what was going on… Those sources have more often than not proved to not know what’s going on.”
The Journal added that its sources also said Kim Jong Nam was likely in contact with Chinese security services.