WASHINGTON - The use of nerve agent VX in the killing of Kim Jong Nam raises the dangerous spectre of a cash-strapped Pyongyang ultimately selling such chemical weapons to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, a former senior diplomat warned Wednesday.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the use of VX added to mounting evidence that North Korea was behind Jong Nam’s murder in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 13.
VX is a chemical agent listed as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations. It is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which the North is not a signatory.
Eight North Koreans have been named as suspects, but the North has denied its involvement.
“The spectre of chemical weapons proliferation, of VX in the hands of terrorists, now looms ever larger,” James Rubin, a former assistant secretary of state, said in an article in the Politico.
“The apparent shipment from North Korea to Malaysia of VX – a lethal substance banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention – is a brazen violation of international law despite the fact that North Korea is not a signatory to the convention,” Yonhap quoted him as saying.
Rubin also noted that China’s suspension of coal imports from North Korea left Pyongyang without one of its biggest sources of hard currency, while al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups have worked hard to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
“It was precisely this kind of frightening marriage of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration considered a key justification for the war in Iraq.
“It would be reasonable to expect President Donald Trump and his team to be working overtime to prevent such a possibility. This is no partisan matter,” he said.
“While we may not have evidence of Pyongyang’s intention to proliferate in the chemical weapons area, we do know they have transferred advanced missile technology and possibly the technology that allowed Syria to build a nuclear reactor that was destroyed by Israel several years ago.”
Rubin said although North Korea was the first foreign policy test for the Trump administration, there were no indications that Trump and his team understood the seriousness of the situation.
“Every new administration has to deal with a foreign policy crisis of some type in its early days,” he said.
“It’s the proliferation risk from North Korea that should worry us. Unless the president and his team act soon, his administration is likely to fail its first test, and in doing so, fail to live up to its responsibility to protect and defend the people of the United States.”