Did Kim Jong-un assassinate his brother? Can this regime be deterred from a pre-emptive use of nucl
Malaysian authorities have revealed that the chemical nerve agent VX or O-ethyl S-[2-(diisopropylamino)ethyl] methylphosphonothioate), was used in the Kuala Lumpur airport assassination of Kim Jong-nam. As blogged previously, Kim Jong-nam is the half-brother of North Korean Dictator, Kim Jong-un, and was living in China under its protection. The Kim Jong-un was reportedly intent on killing his half-brother, and potential rival, who fled North Korea out of fear for his life. Coincidently, their aunt also was reportedly murdered or executed by poison. If the report on Kim Jong-nam’s demise is true, it raises several thorny issues.
Swabs of Kim Jong-nam’s face reportedly showed traces of VX nerve gas, an organophosphate compound, that was first discovered in the United Kingdom in the 1950's, and is one of the most dangerous and toxic substances in the world. The United States, Russia, Syria and Iraq are both known to have manufactured the deadly agent. In 1997, under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) it was banned with the exception that countries were allowed limited stockpiles for research purposes. Not surprisingly, North Korea was not a signatory to CWC and thus is free to manufacture VX nerve gas.
VX is a colorless and odorless oily liquid that turns into a gas as soon as it is exposed to oxygen and can be transmitted through air and water. In vapor form, VX is rapidly acting, and the most-deadly of all nerve agents. It is also the most persistent or long lasting, as VX evaporates slowly making it a long-term threat to whoever comes-in-contact with it as it is degrading. In liquid form, VX could be deployed into a water supply and or used to poison food. Symptoms of exposure to low doses of VX nerve agent include blurred vision, coughing, headaches, and nausea and can take place 18 hours after exposure. In higher doses, the victim suffers from paralysis, loss of consciousness, and respiratory failure with symptoms appearing immediately.
Kim Jong-nam died on February 13th from a seizure while being taken to hospital after complaining that a woman had sprayed chemicals in his face. Closed-circuit television camera-footage shows a woman grabbing Kim-Jong-nam’s face. Currently, two women are in custody, one Vietnamese, and one an Indonesian national along with a North Korean man. It was reported that seven other North Koreans are wanted by Malaysian authorities in-connection-with the case, including a North Korean diplomat. It was reported that the two women were paid to carry out the attack, were directed to wash their hands immediately afterward, and rehearsed the assassination in shopping malls. One of the women was reportedly exposed to the VX and vomiting.
All this raises several questions first and foremost what kinds of VX nerve gas delivery systems has North Korea developed and deployed. How did North Korea agents get XV nerve agent into Malaysia? Why not use something that would ensure death like cyanide without putting the whole airport population at risk? How did they get it through security at the airport--if it occurred in a secured area? Why did the attackers not die? Did they administer antidote to themselves before hand? Why did others not die from exposure? Given it has been 11 days without decontamination, and VX lingers, why have others not died or been injured? Has North Korea developed a binary VX nerve agent to be used in assassination meaning, that it is safe to travel and administer until mixed? North Korea has three ‘friends’ in the region, China, Malaysia, and Singapore. If North Korea is prepared to use a weapon of mass destruction against a civilian target in its closest friend’s homeland what will it do next?
Which brings us to our most sinister question, if Kim Jong-un assassinated his brother with VX Nerve gas in a Malaysian airport, surrounded by hundreds of innocent civilians, protected by the Chinese government, can this regime be deterred from any outrage including the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons?