It’s starting to look like Kim Jong Un had his half-brother killed to thwart a China-initiated coup

Kim Jong-nam, left, and his brother, Kim Jon Un. Picture: Getty Images

When two women killed Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, with a deadly nerve agent in an airport in Malaysia in February, they may have been thwarting an attempt to overthrow Kim Jong Un backed by the Chinese government.

Nikkei Asian Review cites three sources in a report published Monday as saying officials at the top levels of China and North Korea’s government in 2012 seriously considered a plot to remove Kim Jong Un.

Apparently, under former Chinese President Hu Jintao, a top advisor met with Kim Jong Un’s uncle, who floated the idea of replacing Kim with his half-brother, a politically unmotivated gambler, Nikkei reports.

But due to a scandal involving the death of Hu’s son, the Chinese leader did not act.

When a former top adviser to Jiang Zemin, China’s previous president and a rival of Hu, caught wind of the plot, he informed Kim, according to the report, who then killed his uncle and purged several officials with ties to China in 2013.

This year, after the plotters had been dispatched of and North Korea severed most meaningful ties with Beijing, alleged North Korean agents killed Kim Jong Nam and foiled any possibility of a future coup.

The Kim dynasty has ruled North Korea for more than half a century. Only a full on decapitation of the country’s leadership could change that. Kim Jong Nam offered a chance, however slim, at a bloodless revolution in Pyongyang.

But now China, and the world, is stuck with Kim, a 33-year-old leader who has shown hostility and cunning towards isolating himself from China and the rest of the world. Barring the unforeseen, Kim will rule over North Korea for decades to come with animosity towards both the US and China.