N. Korea’s chemical weapons raise alarm

The Japan News/ANN

TOKYO — It was a serious crime involving deadly poison that can be used in chemical weapons. The international community must further heighten its vigilance on North Korea. In the case of the murder of North Korea’s Kim Jong Nam, Malaysian prosecutors indicted two women, one Vietnamese and one Indonesian, on murder charges as perpetrators of the crime. The prosecutors concluded the women colluded with four men with North Korean nationality. The indictment can be called a step forward in uncovering the whole truth of the case, but there is a rocky road ahead. The four North Korean men, key people in the case, appear to have already left Malaysia. Another male suspect, the only North Korean person arrested in the case, has been released due to lack of sufficient evidence. Malaysian police requested a second secretary at the North Korean Embassy in Malaysia to come to police as a key witness, but there is no prospect that the secretary will do so. This is because North Korea does not admit that a murder occurred and has hindered the investigation. North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency has hyped the development as part of “reckless moves” with “political purposes” by the U.S. and South Korean governments with the aim of toppling the North Korean regime.

North Korea has not given its people information about even the existence of Kim Jong Nam, half brother of Kim Jong Un, the chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea. North Korea most likely fears that news about the case would spread to shake the prestige of the nation’s supreme leader. Increased Pressure on Regime A judicial autopsy has revealed that VX nerve agent was used in the murder. The Malaysian government pointed out in a statement that VX is listed in the Chemical Weapons Convention and strongly criticized its use. It is said that Malaysia is receiving assistance from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. North Korea has yet to sign the convention. The South Korean government estimates North Korea possesses up to about 5,000 tons of chemical weapons. That such chemical weapons can be diverted to terrorism is a realistic threat. Malaysia has decided to stop its visa-free program for North Korean people to travel to Malaysia. It is an appropriate measure now that the murder appears likely to be a state crime. It depends how North Korea will respond, but deportation of the North Korean ambassador in Malaysia and closure of the Malaysian Embassy in North Korea are countermeasures Malaysia could take. Cooperation among countries concerned is a key to continuing to pursue the facts about the involvement of North Korea in the murder. Due to the latest incident, there are voices emerging in the U.S. Congress that North Korea should be redesignated as a “state sponsor of terrorism. The United States listed North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1988 due to the downing of a Korean Air flight with a bomb. In 2008, the administration of George W. Bush lifted the designation to induce North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. But the goal of denuclearization has never been realized. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will overhaul conventional U.S. policies on North Korea and is considering “all options.”

Designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism again would certainly be an efficient means to increase pressure on North Korea.