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(LEAD) Clinton issues statement for North Koreans
By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a rare statement for North Korean people over their leader's death but she stopped short of using what may be a sensitive word, "condolence."

   "With the passing of National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is now in a period of national mourning," Clinton said in a statement released late Monday night. "We are deeply concerned with the well being of the North Korean people and our thoughts and prayers are with them during these difficult times."

   Clinton expressed hope that the North will change its course under its new leadership.

   "It is our hope that the new leadership of the DPRK will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by honoring North Korea's commitments, improving relations with its neighbors, and respecting the rights of its people," she added. "The United States stands ready to help the North Korean people and urges the new leadership to work with the international community to usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and lasting security on the Korean Peninsula."

   In a press briefing on Tuesday, Clinton's spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, said the department didn't view the word "condolence" proper in the secretary's statement for North Koreans.

   "With regard to the "C" word, I think we didn't consider it appropriate in this case," Nuland said.

   The secretary wanted to "put out a more fulsome statement" on the North's situation through consultations with South Korea and the other partners in the six-way nuclear talks -- China, Russia and Japan, according to the spokesperson.

   "This was intended to be a signal of our expectations and hopes for the new regime, along the lines that I just outlined here," she said.

   The White House did not respond to an inquiry over whether President Barack Obama plans to issue his own statement on the North Korean leader's death.