45-year-old Kim Jong-nam was the eldest son of North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-il and actress Sung Hae-rim, who passed away in 2002.
Kim left the country long ago and resided in Macau, where he had a business. Before leaving the country, he was considered the main candidate for succeeding Kim Jong-il.
According to Yonhap News Agency, the broadcaster Chosun said on Tuesday that Kim Jong-nam had allegedly been killed by two unidentified women with poisoned needles at an airport in Malaysia. The police reportedly suspect the killers of having links to North Korea.
Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities have detained a woman in the low-cost terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport; she is thought to have been linked to the assassination team that killed Kim Jong-nam, according to The Telegraph.
There's little doubt, given that China has always perceived the political instability in North Korea as its own security problem that something prompted Beijing to keep a watchful eye on the developments related to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
In an interview with Sputnik Korea, Shin Jong-dae, Vice-President of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said that under Kim Jong-il, there was open speculation about Kim Jong-nam becoming his successor in the event of an emergency, a scenario that was also considered by China.
"Beijing sees any signs of instability or aggravation in the situation in North Korea as a matter for its own security, bracing for consequences that may arise as a result of Kim Jong-un's possible illness, a coup or other force majeure situations," Shin Jong-dae said.
"It is unlikely that they used some kind of political engineering so that Kim Jong-nam could become the North Korean leader, but in any case they bore his possible nomination in mind in the event of an emergency", he said.
The assertion that China allegedly supported Kim Jong-nam holds no water, Cheong Seong-chang said.
"Of course, China could not but give kudos to Kim Jong-nam as the son of Kim Jong-il, but no more than that," according to him.
"I would describe as irrational the allegations that Kim Jong-nam, who actually had no clout in North Korea, received informal political support that went beyond formalities," Cheong Seong-chang concluded.