The young, unpredictable Kim Jong Un had issued a "standing order" for his elder half-brother's assassination, and there was a failed attempt in 2012, according to some South Korean lawmakers.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Thursday that the body of Kim Jong Nam, half-brother to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the victim of a freakish murder at Kuala Lumpur airport, has been released to North Korea at the request of his family. Two women - one Vietnamese and one Indonesian - are accused of smearing Kim's face with poison and are in custody.
Media reports said a coffin was put on board a Beijing-bound Malaysian Airlines plane Thursday evening.
Malaysia's police chief has declined to say who in Kim Jong Nam's family wrote the letter asking that his body be brought back to North Korea.
"This is not the first time North Korea has engaged in illicit activities, including kidnapping and murder, abroad", said Daniel Pinkston, a professor of worldwide relations at Troy University in Seoul.
"The investigation into the murder of Kim Jong Nam is still ongoing", he said.
Thursday's political deal also secured the release of ordinary citizens who had been caught up in the diplomatic fight. Malaysia responded in kind, barring North Koreans from exiting its soil, including three North Korean suspects believed to be hiding in the North Korean Embassy.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, left, previous year in Pyongyang, and his late half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, in Narita, Japan in 2001.
The coffin carrying the body of Kim Jong Nam was believed to have been on the same flight.
On the release of the Malaysians, Najib said the North Koreans met the two objectives he had set during negotiations for their freedom.
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Following Mr Kim's killing on 13 February, North Korean officials demanded that the body be handed to them immediately without an autopsy.
"We have obtained whatever we wanted from them", Khalid told reporters.
They have insisted that the man was a North Korean, Kim Chol, the name stated in the passport Jong Nam used to enter Malaysia.
Malaysia yesterday agreed to hand over the remains of Kim Jong-Nam and the three suspects to Pyongyang in exchange for nine Malaysians that were held there.
The investigation soured relations between Malaysia and North Korea, which previously had cordial ties.
On Friday, foreign minister Anifah confirmed the body was on its way back to North Korea after being kept in a hospital morgue in Kuala Lumpur for more than six weeks.
"The body of the DPRK citizen who died in Malaysia and relevant DPRK citizens have returned to the DPRK today via Beijing", foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing.
Eight North Koreans have also been identified as suspects or persons of interest by Malaysian authorities.
"We won't deny that when the DPRK government imposed the travel ban which prevented (us) from leaving, we were very concerned especially since we had committed no wrong", said Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain, a counsellor at the Malaysian embassy in the North Korean capital.