The United States government says it’s sanctioning North Korea after deeming its government responsible for the murder of Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong Nam.
It’s unclear why the US State Department chose to make the announcement Tuesday, hours after South Korea said the Kim regime would be willing to speak with the US about giving up its nuclear weapons.
Kim Jong Nam died in Kuala Lumpur last year after being exposed to VX, a nerve agent so deadly the United Nations considers it a weapon of mass destruction. Malaysian prosecutors allege that two women wiped Kim’s face with the substance in broad daylight at an airport in the country’s capital. He died minutes later in an ambulance, en route to the hospital.
The US State Department revealed Tuesday that new sanctions passed in response to Kim’s killing had taken effect on March 5. However, they’re unlikely to have much practical effect as they appear to overlap with the litany of measures already levied against North Korea in response to its ballistic missile development and nuclear weapons proliferation.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement that American authorities determined the Kim Jong Un regime was responsible for the killing on February 22, a day before the US Treasury Department announced a tranche of measures targeting Pyongyang’s illicit shipping operations.
“The United States strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons to conduct an assassination,” Nauert said. “This public display of contempt for universal norms against chemical weapons use further demonstrates the reckless nature of North Korea and underscores that we cannot afford to tolerate a North Korean WMD program of any kind.”
The statement came after a day of extraordinary turn of events on the Korean Peninsula.
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SOURCE: CNN, Joshua Berlinger