Kim Jong-nam Was Killed by VX Nerve Agent, Malaysians Say
The poison used to kill Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was VX nerve agent, which is listed as a chemical weapon, the Malaysian police announced Friday. In a brief statement, Khalid Abu Bakar, the national police chief, said the substance was listed as a chemical weapon under the Chemical Weapons Conventions of 1997 and 2005, to which North Korea is not a party. South Korea has suggested that the killing was the work of the North Korean government. The revelation that a banned weapon was used in such a high-profile killing raises the stakes over how Malaysia and the international community will respond. VX nerve agent can be delivered in two compounds that are mixed at the last moment to create a lethal dose. The police say that two women approached Mr. Kim at the airport with the poison on their hands and rubbed it on his face one after the other.
Samples were taken from Mr. Kim’s skin and eyes. The poison was identified in a preliminary analysis by the Center for Chemical Weapons Analysis of the Chemistry Department of Malaysia, Mr. Khalid said.
The Chemical Weapons Convention bans the use and stockpiling of chemical weapons, and North Korea is among the world’s largest possessors of such weapons. In 2014, the South Korean Defense Ministry said the North had stockpiled 2,500 to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons and had a capacity to produce a variety of biological weapons. (The North has conducted five nuclear tests since 2006.) VX is part of a family of nerve agents created decades ago during research into pesticides. It is tasteless and odorless and kills by causing uncontrollable muscle contractions, which eventually stop the victim from breathing. A dose of about 10 milligrams is enough to kill by skin contact, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Several world powers, including the United States and the former Soviet Union, once had large stockpiles of the nerve agent. American stores of VX were destroyed under the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997, with incineration completed in 2012.
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