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US says North Korea used nerve agent VX to assassinate Kim Jong Un’s half-brother

Kim Jong Un (Zennie Abraham/Flickr)
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North Korea used the nerve agent VX to assassinate the estranged half-brother of the reclusive nation’s leader Kim Jong Un, the State Department said.

The State Department said it imposed further sanctions on North Korea this week in response to the killing of Kim Jong Nam last year at the Kuala Lumpur airport in the Malaysian capital.

More:Who was Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of N. Korean dictator Kim Jong Un?

Malaysian police said last month that preliminary tests revealed that VX was used in the killing. North Korea denies any involvement in Kim Jong Nam’s death.

“The United States strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons to conduct an assassination,” the State Department said in the statement Tuesday.

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“This public display of contempt for universal norms against chemical weapons use further demonstrates the reckless nature of North Korea and underscores that we cannot afford to tolerate a North Korean WMD (weapons of mass destruction) program of any kind,” the statement said.

Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who died in 2011. At one point he was considered the heir to rule the country. After falling out of favor with his father, he moved to the Chinese gambling mecca of Macau, where he lived in exile. He was returning home via Kuala Lumpur when he was killed on Feb.13, 2016.

Two women are on trial for the murder — Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese national. They are accused of smearing Kim Jong Nam’s face with a tasteless, odorless liquid that killed him hours later.

Defense lawyers said the defendants thought they were acting as part of a prank for a reality TV show. Malaysian police counter that the two women knew what they were doing. Officials said four North Korean men who gave the nerve agent to the women fled the country soon after the killing.

North Korea said Tuesday it would agree to hold talks with the United States about its nuclear weapons program, and offered to suspend nuclear missile and weapons tests during the talks, South Korean authorities said. The move is a potential step toward resolving the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula.

“There’s been a lot of news on that today, hopefully it’s positive,” Trump said Tuesday during a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. “Hopefully it will lead to a very positive result.”

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