Autopsy reveals what actually killed Kim Jong-un's half-brother

Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean Kim Jong-un, was killed by a highly toxic VX nerve agent.

When South Korean officials squashed what they said was a North Korean attempt to kill North Korean defector-turned-anti-Pyongyang activist Park Sang-hak in 2011, they unveiled a pen-liked weapon carried by the would-be assailant that hid a needle dipped in neostigmine bromide, a chemical that attacks the nervous system.

The poison, a VX nerve agent, has been classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction, Malaysian police said on Friday. A Malaysian police official said the women were trained to go straight to washrooms to clean their hands.

"If the amount of the chemical brought in was small, it would be hard for us to detect", he said. He was taken to the terminal's clinic, but died before reaching the hospital. The South Korean Ministry of National Defense estimated in 2012 that North Korea had 2,500 to 5,000 metric tons of chemical weapons.

By using it in such an usually high-profile murder at an worldwide airport, North Korea - if its involvement is confirmed - sent a clear message to the world, turning the incident "into an event of potentially huge strategic ramifications", biochemical weapon expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said in an opinion piece for The Guardian on Friday. Four of the suspects are at-large in Malaysia while the "other four left Malaysia on the day of the attack, taking a circuitous route-via Dubai and Vladivostok, Russia-to get back to Pyongyang without going through China", according to the Post.

But he said one of them had suffered from the effects of the chemical and had been vomiting. "It could have caused mass injuries or even death to other people".

Two women - one Vietnamese and the other Indonesian - are in custody along with a North Korean man. But there were no reports that anyone else had been sickened.

It was the first time police had mentioned "radioactive" material. Mr Khalid did not elaborate on what could "still" be there.

The revelation that VX nerve agent killed Kim has boosted speculation that North Korea had dispatched a hit squad to Malaysia to kill Kim, whose younger half brother is Kim Jong Un.

Malaysia said on Saturday it would issue an arrest warrant for a North Korean diplomat wanted for questioning over the murder of Kim Jong Nam if he doesn't voluntarily cooperate with the police.

A leading regional security expert said it would not have been hard to smuggle VX into Malaysia in a diplomatic pouch, which are not subject to regular customs checks.

North Korea has previously used the pouches "to smuggle items including contraband and items that would be subjected to scrutiny if regular travel channels were used", said Rohan Gunaratna, the head of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research. "Emotionally, we do not know, will need more checks for that", he was quoted as saying.

  • Arturo Norris