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Ex-AUM doctor wrote letter on VX use in Kim's attack before announcement

Colorado State University professor emeritus Anthony Tu is pictured in Tokyo's Chuo Ward in this Oct. 8, 2013 file photo. (Mainichi)

KUALA LUMPUR -- A former senior member of the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult wrote a letter to a leading toxicologist in the United States on Feb. 22 suggesting that the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have been attacked with VX nerve agent, it has been learned.

The former cultist's action came two days before Malaysian police announced on Feb. 24 that VX nerve agent was detected from the body of Kim Jong Nam, who was poisoned in an attack in broad daylight at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13.

Tomomasa Nakagawa, 54, a death-row inmate who formerly served as an AUM executive, sent the letter from Tokyo Detention Center to Colorado State University professor emeritus Anthony Tu, 86. Nakagawa was sentenced to death after being convicted of involvement in the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and three other assault cases using VX nerve agent committed by the AUM Shinrikyo cult.

VX attacks by AUM are the only cases where use of the deadly agent on humans has been confirmed in Japan, according to Japanese public security sources.

Nakagawa had contact with Tu as the professor interviewed him as a world-renowned authority in toxicology research. The professor told the Mainichi Shimbun that Nakagawa's experience may help resolve the mystery surrounding the lethal attack on Kim.

In his letter, which was written on Feb. 22 and was received by Tu on Feb. 24, Nakagawa, a former doctor, pointed out that it was natural for Kim Jong Nam to complain of eye pain -- as has been reported in the media -- assuming that VX nerve agent was used on his eyes, according to Tu. Nakagawa further pointed out that he wouldn't have been surprised if Kim had died at the airport after quickly showing symptoms of poisoning. Based on his experience with the AUM Shinrikyo cult, Nakagawa wrote in the letter that one or two hours would have had passed before Kim developed symptoms.

Regarding the media reports that Kim had what appeared to be foam around his mouth, Nakagawa said in the letter, "Because VX causes an increase of secretion in the respiratory tract, I find no discrepancy in assuming that it was VX-triggered symptoms."

Nakagawa continued in the letter, "Although VX is said to be highly venomous, the agent is easier to treat than sarin as it does not evaporate." He said gloves and long-sleeved normal clothes offered sufficient protection when he handled VX.

Nakagawa once told a court during his trial that he once got VX on his hand and received an antidote injection.

Tu told the Mainichi Shimbun that he was surprised to receive the letter all of a sudden, adding that Nakagawa had surmised that VX had been used on Kim based on his symptoms, even before the Malaysian police released a formal statement on the cause of his death.

Between December 1994 and January 1995, the AUM Shinrikyo cult murdered one person and tried to kill two others with VX nerve agent. The cult killed a company employee after suspecting him of spying for police. It also used the agent on Hiroyuki Nagaoka, who chairs a group of family members of AUM followers, and another person, seriously injuring them.

Nakagawa served as the primary doctor for cult guru Chizuo Matsumoto (Shoko Asahara), who remains on death row. He was tasked with treating cult members when they developed poisoning symptoms from the VX they used in attacks.

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