Smothered in headlines about the Oscars, Trump, and Mardi Gras, Americans missed the most terrifying news to not make headlines. Kim Jong Nam, elder brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, was silently assassinated in a Malaysian airport.

Kim Jong Un with an official during a military parade in Pyongyang (2010).

Kim Jong Un with an official during a military parade in Pyongyang (2010).

Nam was the eldest child of the deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. Nam was exiled in the early 2000’s after he was discovered trying to visit Disneyland in Japan. Prior to exile, Nam was often seen as the next-in-line to lead the nation. With such an embarrassing fiasco, Kim Jong Il exiled his own son.

The Swiss-educated son often found himself as the advocate for several reforms, further pushing the North Korean government to list him as an enemy. As a result, Kim Jong Un was selected as the successor for the government reigns.

The “Impossible State” is in its third dynasty. When power transferred from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il, Il was a military leader with no quality reasons to take over. To consolidate his power, Il pushed away the political titan that was the Korean Worker’s Party and ushered in a military-first policy. With Kim Jong Un, he held dual positions in the military and party. His rule was ushered in with no question of legitimacy, but with constant doubts surrounding his leadership ability.

Kim Jong Un is the world’s youngest leader, and has shown no signs of mercy. Un shocked the world for executing his own uncle in 2013. He also executed a series of generals, and even a top official whose only crime was slouching over during one of Un’s speeches. After routine purges, the world was left to wonder to what ends would Un go to in order to keep his power.

Now, we know: Kim Jong Un authorized the successful assassination of his own brother. It wasn’t a high profile assassination like we might be used to, either. Instead, it was silent, and was carried out almost without notice in a busy airport.

Nam was sprayed with a VX Nerve agent that killed him within 20 minutes. The VX Nerve agent is a chemical weapon, the deadliest of its kind. Colorless and odorless, this WMD is banned under international law.

North Korea knew that using a VX Nerve Agent in this assassination would have multiple effects. First, we now have confirmation that North Korea has some form of a stockpile of VX as well as their nuclear program. Second, their use of this chemical weapon was carried out effortlessly in an airport and with almost no witnesses. Proving their capability to find and kill targets worldwide.

As these revelations unfolded, North Korea executed even more military leaders–this time, with anti-aircraft guns. North Korean officials are meeting with the Iranians and calling for closer coordination, and are even including Palestinian leaders.

Their positioning is clear. After the past eight years, they are emboldened to go as far as they can before a clear international rebuke. China, however, has already stopped importing coal from North Korea.

The world, particularly China and America, have a responsibility to rebuke North Korea. They must hamstring North Korea’s ability to access WMD materials and other resources. President Trump needs to make clear that our renewed leadership will not let our enemies be emboldened.