VX, a chemical warfare agent labeled as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations, has been identified as the means that killed Kim Jong-nam last Monday.
Similar in appearance to engine oil, simply 10 milligrams—or one drop—of the nerve agent is enough to kill a person in minutes. Symptoms of contact with VX include convulsions, loss of consciousness, paralysis, and respiratory failure.
According to Reuters on Friday, Malaysian police identified traces of VX in the deceased body of Jong-nam, the half-brother and political opponent of leader Kim Jong-un of North Korea. The difficult-to-produce and rare chemical had infiltrated Jong-nam’s body upon contact by two women who used their bare hands, according to authorities.
“You can think of VX as being a pesticide on steroids; this is an extraordinarily toxic substance. Roughly 1/100th of a gram—a third of a drop—on someone’s skin, will kill them,” said Bruce Bennet, defense researcher at California-based RAND Corporation.
In recent months, South Korean investigators believe Pyongyang has been using VX as a primary chemical in the North Korean weapons program, despite their denial.
The two women and a North Korean associate have been detained in Kuala Lumpur, though other suspects in the case are still at large.
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