Ministers believe half-brother of North Korean leader was killed with more than 10mg of UN classified VX nerve agent
By Agencies in Kuala Lumpur
Forensics teams conduct a decontamination operation at Kuala Lumpur international
airport. Photograph: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images
The dose of poison given to North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un’s half-brother was so high it killed him “within 15 to 20 minutes”, Malaysia’s health minister has said.
Kim Jong-nam died on 13 February at Kuala Lumpur airport from being poisoned with VX nerve agent, a banned chemical substance classified by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction.
Subramaniam Sathasivam said on Sunday that the dose of VX given to Kim was so high it “would have affected everything”.
“VX only requires 10mg to be absorbed into the system to be lethal, so I presume that the amount of dose that went in is more than that,” he said at a news conference.
“The doses were so high and it did it so fast and all over the body, so it would have affected his heart, it would have affected his lungs, it would have affected everything.”
Asked how long it took for Kim to die after he was attacked, Subramaniam said: “I would think it was about, from the time of onset, from the time of application, 15-20 minutes.”
Despite the poisoning, Malaysia has insisted the killing poses no remaining danger to the public and on Sunday declared its international airport a “safe zone” after completing a sweep of the terminal where Kim had been assaulted.
The police forensic team, fire department and atomic energy licensing board swept the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International airport at 1 am on 26 February.
“We confirm, number one, there is no hazardous material found in KLIA2; number two, KLIA2 is free from any form of contamination of hazardous material and thirdly, KLIA2 is declared a safe zone,” Abdul Samah Mat, the police chief of Selangor state who is leading the investigation, told reporters at the airport.
The site of the assault was cordoned off during the sweep, but the rest of the terminal remained open. Since the incident, tens of thousands of people have passed through the terminal, with the location of the assault remaining accessible.
Security camera footage released by Japanese broadcaster Fuji TV showed the moment two women assaulted Kim with a cloth authorities suspect was laced with the nerve agent.
In later clips Kim is seen asking airport officials for medical help and rubbing his eyes and stumbling as he entered an airport clinic. Airport authorities said he complained of dizziness and died on the way to hospital.
Authorities have said there have been no anomalies in medical cases reported at the clinic since the incident. They also said medical staff at the clinic were in good health.
One Indonesian woman and one Vietnamese woman have been detained, along with a North Korean man.
Seven other North Koreans have been identified as suspects or are wanted for questioning, four of whom have since left for Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, police said.
Police are also sweeping other locations in Kuala Lumpur that suspects may have visited.
Samah Mat said earlier on Saturday that authorities had raided an apartment in an upscale Kuala Lumpur suburb earlier this week in connection with the death and were checking for any traces of unusual chemicals in the apartment.
Kim, who had been living in exile with his family in Macau under Chinese protection, had spoken publicly in the past against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed state.
South Korean and US officials said he was assassinated by North Korean agents. North Korea has not acknowledged his death.
Subramaniam said that autopsy findings were consistent with police reports showing Kim was killed by VX.
He said the chemical caused “serious paralysis which led to the death of the person in such a short period of time”.
The Indonesian suspect, Siti Aishah, was reported to be unwell, possibly owing to contact with the chemical. Subramaniam said authorities were running tests to ascertain whether Siti had been affected by the chemical.