KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24—Police have identified the toxin used in the alleged assassination of Kim Jong-nam as the VX nerve agent.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said investigators were able to pinpoint the substance based on swabs taken from the eyes and face of the former heir to the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.
“The chemical substance has been identified as S-2-diisopropylamino-ethylmethylphosphonothioate or ‘VX nerve agent’,” he said in a statement today.
“VX is listed as a chemical weapon under Schedule 1 of the Chemical Weapons Convention Act 2005 and Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) 1997.”
VX is a powerful neuro-toxin that is used exclusively as a weapon. The substance has no taste or smell, making it difficult to detect save for its slightly reddish hue.
It is also known to be fatal at doses as low as 30—50 mg·min/m3 if introduced via inhalation.
The substance can also kill at a dose of 10mg via prolonged skin contact, but can be safely washed off using water or household bleach.
Symptoms of VX poisoning include shortness of breath and tightness in the chest, which can be confused for cardiac arrest.
The toxin is classified as a weapon of mass destruction according to international conventions. Restrictions on its production and storage makes the substance rare and available only to to highly-militarised states.
Jong-nam was attacked by two women at KL International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on February 13 while waiting for a flight to Macau. He died on the way to hospital.
Police have so far arrested four people including three foreigners over the killing.
Khalid previously said the Indonesian and Vietnamese women who applied the substance on Jong-nam knew it was toxic and were trained for the attack.
North Korea continues to accuse Malaysia of conspiracy over the latter’s investigation into Jong-nam’s death. It tried to block his autopsy here and claim his body ahead of his family.
Pyongyang also disputed Khalid’s claim that the women had used a powerful poison on Jong-nam, asking how the two were still alive when they had handled the substance with their bare hands.
Today’s revelation suggests that North Korea was already aware of what toxin was used in the deadly attack.