North Korea Uses Chemical Weapons That Can Suffocate Victims, Reports Say

The State Department has determined that North Korea should face penalties for the development of chemical weapons, according to a document posted online Friday by the Federal Register.

The document did not provide details about which chemical weapons the regime uses or how the paper's findings were determined. But the document is likely referencing the murder of Kim Jong Nam, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, who was attacked with a nerve agent at a Malaysian airport a year ago.

U.S. government officials have said that Pyongyang has likely developed chemical weapons that include nerve and choking agents. North Korean defectors have said these chemicals are sometimes used against prisoners and disabled people in the Hermit Kingdom.

Kim Jong Nam was traveling through the Kuala Lumpur airport when a woman wiped his face with a nerve agent on February 13, 2017. He died on his way to the hospital.

The nerve agent, known as VX, kills its victims by sending the nervous system into overdrive and preventing the muscles from functioning, which eventually suffocates the victim.

U.S. soldiers from the 4th Chemical Company, 23rd Chemical Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division participate in decontamination training in Yeoncheon, South Korea, on May 16, 2013. Getty Images

Two women, Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, have been charged with the murder of Kim, who was estranged from his powerful brother. The women claim they were tricked into thinking they were participating in a Japanese reality-TV show. They allegedly had been trained by North Korean agents to perform the stunt.

Aisyah allegedly traveled to Cambodia the year before the murder took place and was paid $600 to perform pranks in the airport of the country's capital, Phnom Penh. She said she performed four pranks at the Kuala Lumpur airport, none of which resulted in the death of participants. Police in Malaysia have said the young women knew they were involved in a murder plot, but the women have maintained that they were merely actresses.

Kim Jong Nam, Kim Jong Un's half-brother who was murdered with a nerve agent a year ago, appears dressed in an army uniform with his maternal grandmother in January 1975. AFP/Getty Images

The State Department's determination that North Korea has used chemical weapons means restrictions on foreign aid and military assistance to Pyongyang, which is already subject to numerous international sanctions. This will go into effect on Monday, March 5.