A TV screen on February 14 in Seoul, South Korea, showing pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his older brother Kim Jong-nam, left. AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
The women accused of killing Kim Jong Un's brother Kim Jong-nam are still alive, for now.
Why they're still alive has been a great mystery for the past couple of days.
Indonesian suspect Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong are thought to have approached Kim at a Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13 and wiped the nerve gas VX onto his face.
The CCTV footage appears damning:
Kim sought medical help but died 20 minutes later on his way to the hospital.
The women have said they carried out the attack inadvertently, thinking it was a TV-show prank. They both face the death penalty in Malaysia if convicted of murder.
Several North Koreans who fled the country after Kim's death are wanted for questioning.
The accused women are lucky to be alive if they did indeed handle VX. A minute amount of the substance, banned under international law, can kill up to 500 people through skin exposure alone.
That raises some questions for which no one yet has any answers.
Does North Korea have a stockpile of chemical weapons, perhaps using the attack to notify the rest of the world about it?
If so, has it developed VZ to the point at which it can control its toxicity to kill just one person?
Or has North Korea had a supply for so long that its effectiveness is wearing thin?
Both of the accused immediately rushed to the airport bathroom, and at least one vomited afterward.
It's possible that the North Koreans who fled the country coated the women's hands with protective chemicals first. An antidote, atropine, can be administered after exposure, but there is also the question of how everyone else in the crowded airport avoided exposure.
The most logical answer so far comes from Vipin Narang at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He has suggested the attack required two people for one good reason — with the VX, he says, used in a "binary form."
Narang says one of the accused may have had a sulphur-containing liquid on her hands. The other then perhaps wielded a "complex but nontoxic compound called QL."
Combined, they create VX.
This is actually the form countries that still have stockpiles of VX — including Russia and the US — store it in, because it is so dangerous.
The two combine when the shells and bombs that deliver them explode.
As it tries to hold together relations with Malaysia, one of its only friends, North Korea would prefer the cause of death to be heart attack.
It claims accusations of assassination are a smear attempt and is still demanding Kim's body be returned before an autopsy can be carried out by Malaysian authorities.
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