Kim Jong-nam, aged 45, was the eldest son of North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-il and actress Sung Hae-rim. Before he left the country for Macau, he was considered the main candidate for succeeding Kim Jong-il.
Speculation has been rife as to the identity of Kim Jong-nam's assassin. South Korea's TV Chosun, a cable-TV network, reported that Kim had allegedly been killed by two unidentified women with poisoned needles. Citing South Korean government sources, the women were reportedly North Korean operatives who remained at large after fleeing the scene in a taxi.
However, the stories remain unconfirmed, and Ba Dianjun of Jilin University's Northeast Asia Institute told Sputnik that such hypotheses are irresponsible given the circumstances.
"Most of the reports agreed that what happened has some relation to North Korea, for two reasons. Firstly, there had been a previous attempt on his life. Secondly, Kim Jong-nam could have represented a 'political threat' to Kim Jong-un. A lot of South Korean media in particular support this view. So far, the cause of death has not been revealed, so it would be irresponsible to put forward any hypotheses."
Also on Monday, North Korea announced it had successfully test-fired a new type of medium- to long-range ballistic missile the previous day.
According to North Korea's KCNA news agency, Kim Jong-un attended the launch of the Pukguksong-2, a new type of strategic weapon capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
"North Korea has recently achieved a breakthrough in nuclear weaponry and successfully tested a ballistic missile. This, in turn, is bringing the country to a point where the US will lose patience."
"As soon as the truth is revealed, it will have a strong influence on the political situation in North Korea, as well as relations with neighboring states," Ba said.
"A lot of media reports, especially in Japan and South Korea, are focusing on the relations between China and North Korea. After all, Kim Jong-nam spent most of his time in Macau. Now there is even a theory that he was a kind of 'second choice' for China, so that if necessary it would be possible to use Kim Jong-nam to create a new order in North Korea."
"On the contrary, I believe that the death of Kim Jong-nam demonstrates that China has no such plans. If China had such intentions, Kim Jong-nam would have been 'under supervision' in terms of his travel abroad and could not have just leave the country. In addition, measures to ensure his safety would have been very strictly observed."
"These kinds of reports have the effect of focusing on China-North Korea relations, and draw attention to China. In the current situation, when a new government is in power in the US, when the THAAD missile defense system is in the process of deployment, the West has a strategic plan to alter China-North Korea relations and the promotion of these reports only disconnects the countries," Ba said.
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