North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the killing of his half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, according to the US State Department on Tuesday.
The report comes on the heels of optimistic discussions between North and South Korea, opening the opportunity for dialogue between the United States and the North. Now, such talks are less imminent.
In a statement, the DOS said “the government of North Korea used the chemical warfare agent VX to assassinate Kim Jong Nam, in the Kuala Lumpur airport. The United States strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons to conduct an assassination.” The department further announced additional sanctions to those already being imposed.
Kim Jong Nam was killed last year shortly after arriving at the airport to catch a flight to Macau. His death was caused by two women, who claimed they were “duped” into spraying an unidentified liquid onto him.
Both assailants quickly washed their hands afterwards.
VX gas is a lethal nerve agent considered to be the most toxic chemical war weapon in existence. It is odorless, tasteless, and fast-acting. Within moments of exposure, a victim’s symptoms begin to show, ultimately leading to either asphyxiation or heart failure.
The substance killed Kim Jong Nam in less than 20 minutes. He died on the way to a hospital after crying out for help.
Jong Nam was the first-born child of deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, conceived between his father and a married actress. With his birth being considered illegitimate, he lived with his mother in exile for the first few years of his life, but was eventually provided with a world-class education after Jong Il was confirmed to succeed leadership of North Korea.
The eldest son of Kim Jong Il never even met the brother accused of killing him, and was reportedly always seen as a threat by Kim Jong Un. As the most high profile child of Jong Il prior to Jong Un’s succession of power, Jong Nam made headlines after being busted with fake travel documents in 2001. After skipping his father’s funeral years later, many speculated that he was living in exile.
Kim Jong Un has been accused of killing several political rivals during his tenure in office. North Korea’s state-sponsored media even threatened President Trump, saying he deserved the death penalty for cancelling a trip to the country due to inclement weather.