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Kim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve agent, say Malaysian police

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by Agent_47, Feb 24, 2017.

  1. Agent_47

    Agent_47 Admin - Blog Staff Member MODERATOR

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    The substance used in the killing of Kim Jong-nam was a “VX nerve agent”, a highly toxic liquid used only in chemical warfare, Malaysian police have said.

    The inspector general, Khalid Abu Bakar, said later that one of the two women suspected of involvement in the poisoning also suffered its effects: “She was vomiting.”

    The findings follow a preliminary analysis of swabs taken from the face and eyes of the victim, who is the half-brother of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. More items linked to the attack at Kuala Lumpur airport were still being analysed and the terminal would be decontaminated, police said.

    VX – also known as O-ethyl S-diisopropylaminomethyl methylphosphonothiolate– is classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.

    Kim Jong-nam died on 13 February from a seizure on while being taken to hospital after complaining that a woman had sprayed chemicals in his face at Kuala Lumpur airport. Leaked CCTV footage shows a woman grabbing his face. Malaysian police had said earlier that two attackers rubbed a liquid on him before walking away and quickly washing their hands.
    Asked about the possibility that North Korean agents might have imported the world’s most toxic nerve agent and deployed it in an international airport, a source close to the Malaysia government commented: “Not very diplomatic.”

    South Korea said the use of VX was a “blatant violation” of international norms. “We are shocked by the latest revelation by the Malaysian authorities that VX … was used in the death of Kim Jong-Nam,” Seoul’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “The use of any chemical weapons is strictly banned for any reason and in any place,” it added.

    Khalid said authorities were determining how VX entered the country and that the terminal where Kim Jong-nam was killed, in a budget airline departure lounge, would be decontaminated. As a weapon, VX does not quickly dissipate and can remain on material or the ground for long periods.

    An employee at Malaysia Airports Holdings, the company that manages the airport, told the Guardian it had not closed the terminal or been contacted by police about a decontamination since the attack 11 days ago.

    China, which afforded a level of protection to Kim Jong-nam during his stays there and in Macau, issued a cautious response to the revelations.

    The foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Beijing was aware of media reports about the use of chemicals classified by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction.

    “We have also noted the relevant remarks made by Malaysia and the latest developments,” Geng said. “So far we have seen only preliminary information. There has been no conclusion with regards to this incident.”

    Liang Yabin, a research fellow at the institute of international strategic studies at the Communist party’s Central Party School, said that, if confirmed, the use of such chemical weapons at an international airport would represent a violation of Malaysian sovereignty and be “simply intolerable”.

    Liang said the incident was potentially “a justifiable act of war” and that Beijing would increase airport security and the monitoring of people travelling into China from North Korea.
    Geng said he was not aware of Chinese authorities having issued any travel warning to citizens using Kuala Lumpur airport.

    The US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes VX as the most potent of all nerve agents and one that would be lethal on contact with the skin unless immediately washed off. Its only known use is in chemical warfare, it says.

    The agency says exposure to a large dose of VX may result in convulsions, loss of consciousness, paralysis and fatal respiratory failure. Kim Jong-nam is reported to have complained of pain in his face shortly after the attack. A leaked photo at the medical centre shows him laid back on a chair with his eyes closed.

    The clear, colourless liquid with the consistency of engine oil was developed in the UK in the 1950s during research into pesticides but was found to be too toxic to be used safely.

    Saddam Hussein was accused of using VX during the Iran-Iraq war and there are concerns that stockpiles exist in Syria. Only the US and Russia have said they possess VX or a similar agent.

    North Korea is thought to have one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, and is one of six countries not to have signed or acceded to theChemical Weapons Convention (CWC), according to the US non-profit organisation the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Defectors have accused North Korea of testing its chemical agents on people.

    Raymond Zilinskas, who directs the chemical and biological nonproliferation programme at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California, said it seemed unlikely the killers applied VX directly.

    “Even if they were wearing gloves, the fumes would have killed them,” he said. He suggested the assassins might have used a “binary concoction”, smearing two non-fatal elements of VX which mixed on the victim’s face.

    He said that because North Korea did not belong to the CWC, Malaysia might ask the UN secretary general to investigate. “Whether North Korea would allow UN inspectors to enter the country is of course a big question. But the matter certainly could be taken up by UN security council and/or general assembly.”

    Four people of different nationalities have been arrested and seven North Koreans are wanted in connection with the attack. Malaysian police have not directly pinpointed North Korea as being behind the death.

    The Malaysia Star said police had seized “various chemicals” at an apartment in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday night.

    Malaysia warned North Korea’s outspoken ambassador on Friday he would be thrown out of the country if he continues to “spew lies” over the investigation.

    Malaysia foreign minister Anifah Aman lashed out at Kang Chol, who said earlier this week that North Korea could not trust the Malaysian investigation.

    Kang has also claimed the probe is politically motivated and that Malaysia had conspired with South Korea to frame the North.

    Anifah cautioned Kang he should watch what he says. “He must enjoy the confidence of the government of Malaysia,” Anifah said. “I hope he understands by what I mean by he must enjoy the confidence of the government of Malaysia.”

    “The ambassador has been informed of the process involved ( but he continues to be delusional and spew lies and accusations against the government of Malaysia.”

    A senior Malaysian government official said Kang had been shown a “yellow card”, adding: “If he repeats the baseless allegations, he will be expelled.”

    Kang has already been summoned to the foreign ministry for a dressing down over the ongoing spat.

    In the first report from the state-run North Korean news agency since the attack, the government on Thursday said Malaysia had broken international law by conducting autopsies on a diplomatic passport holder and withholding the body.

    Tong Zhao, a North Korea expert from at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing, said the latest revelations about the killing of a man China considered a positive, pro-reform figure, would further damage Chinese confidence in Pyongyang.

    “The reason China has been reluctant to impose comprehensive and crippling economic sanctions against North Korea … is partially due to the fact that China still has faith in the ability of the North Korean government to transform and modernise itself.

    “Such faith might be undermined by this recent murder.”

    Zhao said the news would fuel debate over China’s stance towards its neighbour and could have “far-reaching implications for China’s overall North Korea policy”.

    “If China reconsiders its overall approach to North Korea – and I think there are already signs of that – the bilateral relationship could be radically changed.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...nerve-agent-mass-destruction-malaysian-police
     

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