Police confirmed on Tuesday that the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was killed in Malaysia, apparently assassinated by two women, according to reports.
Kim Jong Nam, the older half-brother of the North Korean leader, was known to spend a significant amount of his time outside the country and had spoken out publicly against his family's dynastic control of the isolated state.
"It's another sign that Kim Jong Un is asserting his control over the regime — rather than the regime descending into chaos," said Anwita Basu, lead analyst for North Korea at the Economist Intelligence Unit, in London. "He was a threat and he was removed."
Several media reports in South Korea and elsewhere indicated that the female assassins, who are believed to be North Korean agents, attacked Kim Jong Nam at Kulala Lumpur airport with "poisoned needles." The pair escaped from the scene and are at large.
The apparent murder comes as tensions are rising following another North Korean missile launch, on Sunday. The isolated country is armed with nuclear weapons and has developed increasingly sophisticated missile technology — and at a faster pace than in previous years. Observers fear those weapons could be used to threaten Japan or South Korea, two critical U.S. allies and two of the world's biggest economies.