The execution of Jang Song Thaek, once considered the second most powerful man in North Korea, was announced on the country’s state television.
It has been a very public affair, sending questions around the globe about the arrest and subsequent execution of the uncle of the leader Kim Jong Un.
The secretive nation is preparing to mark the second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il, the father of the current leader.
Reaction was muted from the country’s neighbour and ally China who made it clear it would not interfere.
“As a neighbouring country we hope for North Korea to maintain stability, economic development and a happy livelihood for its people,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
The purge is seen by some analysts as a risky move as in the past the leadership has tended to move political opponents out of the gaze of the watching world.
Across the border, South Korea says it will keep a close eye on developments.
“Generally in the past we have seen that the efforts to crackdown on internal insecurities then lead to external provocations. We are paying close attention to such a possibility this time as well,” Ryoo Kihl-jae South Korean Unification Minister.
In the wake of the execution unconfirmed speculation has emerged that one or more of Jang Song Thaek’s close aides has defected to South Korea and is being protected by officials in a secret location in China.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman said he had not heard any such reports.