US sanctions North Korea for killing of leader's half-brother with VX chemical

WASHINGTON, March 6 (Reuters) - The United States has determined Pyongyang used the chemical warfare agent VX to assassinate the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Malaysia in 2017 and has imposed sanctions in response, the U.S. 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 United States.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement the U.S. 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.

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Kim Jong Nam murder investigation
Malaysia's Royal Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar (C) speaks next to a screen showing North Korean Kim Uk Il during a news conference regarding the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, at the Malaysian police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Malaysia's Royal Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar (C) speaks next to a screen showing North Korean suspect Ri Ji U during a news conference regarding the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, at the Malaysian police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Malaysia's Royal Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar (C) speaks next to a screen showing North Korean suspect Ri Ji U during a news conference regarding the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, at the Malaysian police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Malaysian police officers gather in front of the gate of the morgue at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital where Kim Jong Nam's body is held for autopsy in Malaysia February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
A reporter holds up a local newspaper during his report in front of the morgue at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital where Kim Jong Nam's body is held for autopsy in Malaysia February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Malaysia's Royal Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar demonstrates to the media during a news conference regarding the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, at the Malaysian police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Nguyen Thi Vy, 54, mother in law of Doan Thi Huong, a suspect involved in the assassination of Kim Jong-Un's half-brother, looks at handouts and published photographs of the four arrested suspects including Huong at Huong's family home in Nghia Hung district, northern province of Nam Dinh on February 22, 2017. Detectives probing the assassination of Kim Jong-Un's half-brother want to question a North Korean diplomat, Malaysia's top policeman said. Royal Malaysian Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong, 28, and Indonesian Siti Aishah, 25, had been trained to swab the man's face, practising in Kuala Lumpur before the assault at the airport. / AFP / HOANG DINH NAM (Photo credit should read HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)
A look at the murder of Kim Jong Nam, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half brother.
Package looking at Kim Jong Nam's movement, the Kim family and the purge led by Kim Jong Un.
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The additional sanctions on Pyongyang went into effect on March 5 after the finding was formally published in the Federal Register, the official journal of the U.S. government, Nauert said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson determined 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.

Kim's estranged half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was killed at the airport in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. Two women, Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, are on trial on charges of murdering Kim by smearing his face with VX. (Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Grant McCool)

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