Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, died en route to hospital from the Kuala Lumpur airport Monday morning, according to the media reports from South Korea and Malaysia.
Kim's sudden death has shocked the world. South Korea's Yonhap news agency used such words as "killed" and "assassinated" in its news coverage regarding the cause of death, which has been widely quoted by various international news media.
Malaysian police said that Kim began suffering from dizziness while waiting for a flight at the airport. He was then taken to an airport clinic, but later died on the way to hospital. Malaysian police told Reuters that the cause of Kim's death was unknown, and that a post mortem would be carried out.
BBC reported that Kim's body was undergoing an autopsy, citing a source close to the Malaysian prime minister's office. BBC also quoted Malaysia's English newspaper The Star as saying that Kim was "attacked" around 9 am while waiting for a 10 am flight to Macao. CNN reported that Kim "died Monday after becoming ill."
Kim Jong-nam is the eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Once appointed to a senior position in the country's Ministry of Public Security and other high-ranking positions, Kim Jong-nam was later excluded from the elite power circle, and subsequently spent most of his time abroad.
Kim's unique family background has garnered global attention over the years. But generally speaking, he has maintained a low profile, and especially so when it comes to his opinions on the current regime and policies of his home country.
His sudden death has triggered widespread discussion and speculation. The "assassination" theory has had significant influence on media reports, echoing knee-jerk reactions from ordinary citizens all over the world.
Some reports claimed that Kim was killed after being "sprayed in the face with an unknown liquid," while others reported he was stabbed "with a poisoned needle," "possibly by a pair of female spies" who looked like North Korean. Various theories over the cause of his death have emerged from vague sources and remain contradictory.
South Korea has long been the leading source for most "exclusive" reports on North Korea. Although some of its reports have been proven to be entirely accurate, many have later been discovered to be only partially true, or not true at all.
If it is proven that Kim Jong-nam was indeed assassinated, many questions will need to be answered, with the most important one being, "Who was behind the assassination and why?"
The world will have to rely on the Malaysian government to draw a formal and reliable conclusion once a thorough investigation into Kim's cause of death has been conducted.
If the authorities conclude he was assassinated, the criminal act will definitely be condemned and scorned by the international community, including the Chinese.
Regardless of how intense a country's political struggle might be, there is no doubt that it should never rely on assassination methods as means for its advancement. Human civilization is now in the 21st century, and such a savage and outdated political device should be cast into the museums of history.
In the past, assassinations of political figures and celebrities that sporadically occurred in unstable areas were strongly condemned, and to this day not one single exception can be named.
Although a final conclusion has yet to emerge regarding Kim Jong-nam's sudden death, speculation remains sharply pointed at Pyongyang. Such speculation is severely damaging to North Korea's reputation on the international stage. It is sincerely hoped that the country will step up and provide answers to a world that right now can only patiently wait.
The author is a commentator of the Global Times. firstname.lastname@example.org Follow us on Twitter at @GTopinion