Chemist says Kim had 1.4 times lethal dosage of VX on face
THE estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader had about 1.4 times the lethal dosage of VX nerve agent on his face after he was attacked at a Malaysian airport, a government chemist testified Tuesday.
VX was found on Kim Jong Nam’s face, in his eye and in his blood plasma, Raja Subramaniam, who heads the Centre of Chemical Weapons Analysis laboratory, said at the murder trial of two women accused of smearing the chemical weapon on Kim in the brazen assassination in February.
VX and related products were also detected on the clothes the women were wearing on the day of the attack. On Monday the trial moved temporarily to a high-security laboratory so the judge, attorneys and the defendants could examine the clothing before it was officially accepted as evidence.
Resuming his testimony Tuesday, Raja described VX’s lethal potential. He said animal studies showed the lethal dosage is 0.142 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, and that 50 percent of the tested population will die when exposed to this dosage on their skin.
Raja estimated the concentration on Kim’s facial skin was 0.2mg per kilogram of body weight.
Asked if this amount was enough to kill him, Raja said: “I can’t give a direct answer on this. Based on concentrate estimate, it is about 1.4 times the lethal dosage.”
He acknowledged that more of the poison might be needed to kill a heavier person but had no data on it.
He said the VX concentrate in Kim’s eye was estimated at only 0.03mg per kilogram of his body weight, but that correlated to VX penetrating faster through the eye than through the skin. VX was also found on the collar and sleeves of Kim’s blazer, probably because he wiped his face on his blazer after the attack, Raja said.
The two defendants, Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam and Siti Aisyah from Indonesia, pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial last week to murder charges that carry a mandatory death sentence if they are convicted.
Raja’s finding of VX on the women’s clothing and on Huong’s fingernails was the first evidence linking VX to the two suspects. Their attorneys have said the women were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden camera TV show.
Under cross-examination, Raja said it wasn’t possible that the VX used to kill Kim was a “binary” concoction of two non-fatal elements because high temperature would have been required to create VX.
He agreed with the defence’s assertion that actual VX could have been smuggled into Malaysia or a non-fatal compound could have been smuggled into the country and mixed with sulfur to create VX in a clandestine laboratory.
One item where Raja detected VX was not officially admitted as evidence in the case: the blazer Kim was wearing when he was attacked. Raja testified it was not available because police told him to return Kim’s personal belongings, including his blazer and bag, to North Korea.
Police officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz, the chief investigating officer in the murder, told the court that an airport security video taken before the attack on Kim showed Huong softly wiping the face of another person at the same airport terminal, in what he described as a practice session for the attack on Kim. Huong then clasped her hands together and bowed her head as if she was apologising before retreating slowly, he said.
However, a security video taken of the actual murder showed her being rough, “as if she was attacking” Kim, he said.
“To me, her action was quite aggressive,” Wan Azirul said, adding that Huong then retreated in haste.
Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin told reporters that the earlier video was taken on February 11, two days before the murder. He said prosecutors will show videos to the court on Wednesday of the two women carrying out the attack. – Associated Press TWO Australian navy vessels, including a helicopter dock and a guided missile frigate, arrived Tuesday in the Philippines for a five-day goodwill visit as Australia seeks an increased security presence and greater influence in the region.
Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Adelaide, a landing helicopter dock, and HMAS Darwin, a guided missile frigate, docked at Manila’s harbour. Philippine navy officials and Australia’s ambassador to the Philippines, Amanda Gorley, welcomed the crew of the ships, which are part of the Australian defence force joint task group IndoPacific Endeavour 2017.
“The principal aim of the deployment as we tour around the region is to demonstrate Australian commitment to supporting regional security and regional stability,” said the contingent head, Capt. Jonathan Earley. He said a number of exercises planned with the Philippine armed forces in Manila and in western Subic Bay will focus on humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Gorley said the ship visit “is a symbol of the strong defence ties between Australia and the Philippines, which just get deeper and deeper.” Through joint activities during the visit, Australia and the Philippines can work together to pursue their shared objective of ensuring maritime security and regional stability, she added.
Freedom of navigation in regional waters will be included in maritime security and regional stability, Gorley said when asked if Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour would include freedom of navigation operations in disputed waters of the South China Sea.
But Earley said freedom of navigation in the South China Sea – an issue that Australia does not takes sides in – is not a focus of their deployment.
“Certainly what I can say is that we do have a strong interest in regional security and respect for international law, and that certainly includes the freedom of trade, and the ability to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight where required,” he said.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Friday that a policy paper to be released later this year would spell out guidelines on how Australia can maximise and exercise power and influence to defend a rules-based international order and to dissuade others seeking to undermine it. – Associated Press
A crew member of the HMAS Adelaide, an amphibious assault ship and landing helicopter dock, throws a line as the Australian naval ship docks in Manila, Philippines, on Tuesday.
Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong is escorted by police from the court hearing in Shah Alam, Malaysia, on Tuesday.