The women accused of killing Kim Jong Un’s brother Kim Jong-nam are still alive, for now.
Why they’re still alive has been a great mystery for the past couple of days.
It’s all but certain Indonesian suspect Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong approached Kim at Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13 and wiped the nerve gas, VX, onto his face.
The CCTV footage was damning:
Kim sought medical help, but died 20 minutes later on his way to hospital.
The women claim they were told they played out the attack under the impression it was for a TV show prank. They both face the death penalty in Malaysia if convicted.
Several North Koreans who fled the country after Kim’s death are wanted for questioning.
Both the accused are lucky to be alive. A minute amount of VX, banned under international law, can kill up to 500 people through skin exposure alone.
That raises some questions, for which no one yet has any answers.
Does North Korea have a stockpile of chemical weapons and used the attack to notify the rest of the world about it?
If so, has it developed VX to the point where it can control its toxicity to kill just one person?
Or has North Korea had a supply of VX so long its effectiveness is wearing thin?
Both the accused immediately rushed to the airport bathroom and at least one vomited afterwards.
It’s possible the North Koreans who fled the country coated the womens’ hands with protective chemicals first. An antidote, atropine, can be administered after exposure, but there is also the question of how everyone else in the crowded airport avoided exposure.
The most logical answer so far comes from Vipin Narang at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He has suggested the attack required two people for one good reason – the VX was used in a “binary form”.
Narang says one of the accused may have had a sulphur-containing liquid on her hands. The other wielded a “complex but non-toxic compound called QL”.
Combined, they created VX.
This is actually the form countries which still have stockpiles of VX – including Russia and the US – store it in, because it is so dangerous.
The two combine when the shells and bombs which deliver it explode.
As it tries to hold together relations with Malaysia, one of its only friends, North Korea would prefer the cause of death to be heart attack.
It claims accusations of assassination are a smear attempt and is still demanding Kim’s body be returned before an autopsy can be carried out by Malaysian authorities.