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N. Korean leader thanks foreign leaders for condolence messages

(Yonhap) -- North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un has thanked the leaders of dozens of countries for sending him condolence messages over the recent death of his father Kim Jong-il, the North's state television said Saturday.

The move is seen as the young leader's first official foray into the diplomatic arena since he took power last month following the Dec. 17 death of his father. The late Kim reportedly died of heart failure after ruling the country with an iron fist for 17 years.

Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, expressed his gratitude by sending written replies to the leaders of Russia, Cuba, Nepal, Mongolia, Bangladesh and dozens of other nations, said the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station.

He also expressed his wish for bilateral ties between North Korea and the recipient nations to develop further, the TV station said.

It did not say when the letters were sent.

   China, North Korea's major ally and benefactor, was not included on the list of countries, spurring speculation that Kim Jong-un may have sent a private letter through the Chinese ambassador to Pyongyang or arranged other plans.
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