Kota Kinabalu (kōtˈə kĭnˌəbəlōˈ) [key], formerly Jesselton, town (1991 pop. 160,122), capital of Sabah, Malaysia, in N Borneo and on a small inlet of the South China Sea. It is the chief port of the state and is connected by road and rail with the interior. Rubber is exported. It was founded in 1899 and in 1947 replaced Sandakan as the capital of what was then British North Borneo. The town was destroyed during World War II but has since been rebuilt and modernized.