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Carter offers condolences to N. Korea: report

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has sent condolences for the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and expressed a wish to visit the communist country, the North’s state media said Thursday.

“In the message Jimmy Carter extended condolences to Kim Jong-un and the Korean people over the demise of leader Kim Jong-il,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

It said the message was sent on Monday, the same day that the communist state announced its longtime leader had died of a heart attack aged 69, urging people to rally around his youngest son and successor Kim Jong-un.

“He (Carter) wished Kim Jong-un every success as he assumes his new responsibility of leadership, looking forward to another visit to the DPRK in the future,” KCNA said, using the initials for the North’s official name.

The former president has visited the reclusive state a number of times including his 1994 trip to mediate in a diplomatic row between the United States and the North over Pyongyang‘s nuclear weapons program.

The 2002 Nobel peace prize winner traveled there again in August 2010 to secure the release of US citizen Aijalon Mahli Gomes, an English teacher jailed by Pyongyang for illegally crossing into the North from China.

But his most recent visit in April of this year along with three other former world leaders, aimed at easing heightened tensions between the two Koreas and encouraging nuclear disarmament, ended with little progress.

The group failed to meet Kim Jong-il or Jong-un.

The United States, which is treaty-bound to defend South Korea and Japan, is watching the succession process closely and President Barack Obama’s administration has struck a cautious tone in its public statements.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has consulted North Korea‘s neighbors and asked the younger Kim to embrace the “path of peace.” (AFP)