Seoul pins assassination of Kim Jong Un's half-brother on North Korean government


The assassination of the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was directed by North Korea’s ministry of state security and foreign ministry, South Korean lawmakers briefed by the country’s intelligence agency said Monday.

Four officials of the state security ministry and two officials of the foreign ministry are among the eight suspects in the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the lawmakers quoted the intelligence agency as saying.

Kim died Feb. 13 at Kuala Lumpur’s airport in what Malaysian police say was a well-planned hit by two women who wiped a liquid on Kim’s face. Police revealed Friday that the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent was used in the murder, raising the stakes in the case.

Malaysia’s health minister said Sunday that the dose of the nerve agent was so high that it killed him within 20 minutes and caused “very serious paralysis.”

Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said the dose of VX given to Kim was so high that he showed symptoms within minutes. Kim fainted at the airport clinic and died in the ambulance while en route to a hospital, he said.

“VX only requires 10 milligrams to be absorbed into the system to be lethal, so I presume that the amount of dose that went in is more than that,” he said at a news conference. “The doses were so high and it did it so fast and all over the body, so it would have affected his heart, it would have affected his lungs, it would have affected everything.”

Malaysia hasn’t directly accused the North Korean government of being behind the attack, but officials have said four North Korean men provided two women with poison to carry it out. The four men fled Malaysia on the same day as the killing, while the women — one from Indonesia and the other Vietnamese — were arrested.

Experts say the nerve agent used to kill Kim was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory and is banned under an international treaty. But North Korea never signed the treaty, and has spent decades developing a complex chemical weapons program.

Kim was not an obvious political threat to his estranged half-brother, Kim Jong Un. But he may have been seen as a potential rival in North Korea’s dynastic dictatorship, even though he had lived in exile for years.

North Korea has denied any role in the attack.

Tens of thousands of passengers have passed through the airport since the apparent assassination was carried out. No areas were cordoned off and protective measures were not taken.

Early Sunday, more than a dozen officers in protective gear swept the budget terminal where Kim was attacked and said they found no traces of VX.

Abdul Samah Mat, the police official leading the investigation, said the terminal was “free from any form of contamination of hazardous material” and declared it a “safe zone” after a two-hour sweep.

He also said a condominium on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur that was raided by police last week had been rented by the four North Korean suspects who left the country. He said police were still testing a seized substance for traces of any chemicals.

Abdul Samah said the Indonesian woman who was arrested, Siti Aisyah, vomited in a taxi on the way from the airport after the attack but is fine now. He said that more tests were needed to determine if the two arrested suspects were given antidotes so the nerve agent wouldn’t kill them.

An antidote, atropine, can be injected after exposure and is carried by medics in war zones where weapons of mass destruction are suspected.

On Saturday, representatives from the Indonesian and Vietnamese embassies met with the two arrested women, who both said they thought they were part of a prank show. Aisyah said she was paid the equivalent of $90, according to Andriano Erwin, Indonesia’s deputy ambassador to Malaysia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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