US sanctions N. Korea for using VX in KL airport attack

WASHINGTON The United States has determined that Pyongyang used the chemical warfare agent VX to assassinate the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Malaysia last year and has imposed sanctions in response, the US State Department said on Tuesday.

The prohibitions appeared largely symbolic, such as sales to North Korea under the Arms Export Control Act and barring the export of national security-sensitive goods and technology to North Korea, which has no relations with the US.

State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said the US government made the formal determination about the use of VX on Feb 22 under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991.

The additional sanctions on Pyongyang went into effect on Monday after the finding was formally published in the Federal Register, the official journal of the US government, Ms Nauert said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson determined that North Korea had "used chemical weapons in violation of international law or lethal chemical weapons against its own nationals", the department said in the Federal Register.

Mr Kim's estranged half-brother, Mr Kim Jong Nam, was killed at Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb 13 last year.

Two women, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 26, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 30, are on trial on charges of murdering Mr Kim by smearing his face with VX.

They face the death penalty if found guilty. - REUTERS