Kim had uncle executed after learning of coup plot
Kim Jong Un reportedly ordered the execution of his uncle and mentor in December 2013 after learning that Jang Song-thaek had proposed to China that it support a coup to replace the North Korean dictator with his half-brother Kim Jong-nam.
Mr Jang met in Beijing with Hu Jintao, the then-Chinese president, in August 2012, according to reports in Japan's 'Nikkei Asian Review'. Mr Jang had cultivated close business and political ties with China and was trusted by Beijing.
Sources told the newspaper that Mr Jang proposed a plot to overthrow Mr Kim, with Beijing's assistance, and to replace him with his oldest half-brother.
Mr Hu was not in a position to give an immediate answer to the suggestion, however, as he was facing an internal crisis of his own. Mr Hu's closest adviser Ling Jihua was facing disgrace after his fast-living son was killed in a speeding Ferrari when it crashed in Beijing.
The alleged plot was discovered by Zhou Yongkang, a former member of China's Politburo Standing Committee and a close aide to another former president Jiang Zemin. As head of the police and Ministry of State Security, Mr Zhou had built up connections with North Korea, including with Mr Kim.
Internal political rivalries convinced Mr Zhou to inform Mr Kim - who had only taken over control of North Korea after the death of his father in December 2011 - of the plan to stage a coup and replace him.
After hearing of the plot, "the North Korean leader flew into a rage" and, in December 2013, ordered the arrest and execution of Mr Jang.
The statement released after Mr Jang's arrest hints at the reasons for his nephew's ruthlessness, describing him as "human scum, who was worse than a dog" and claiming he "perpetrated thrice-cursed acts of treachery in betrayal of such profound trust and warmest paternal love shown by the party and the leader".
It added that he "had desperately worked for years to destabilise and bring down the DPRK and grab the supreme power of the party and state by employing all the most cunning and sinister means and methods".
Meanwhile, Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers have flown over the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, prompting Japan and South Korea to scramble jets to escort them, Russia said yesterday.
Russia's Defence Ministry said in a statement the Tupolev-95MS bombers, code named 'Bears' by Nato, flew over neutral waters and were accompanied by Russian Sukhoi-35S fighter jets and A-50 early warning and control aircraft.
It gave no details about how many aircraft took part in what it called a pre-arranged flight and did not say when or why the mission took place.