Cannot protect embassies after April 10: North Korea

About two dozen countries,including India,have embassies in Pyongyang

Written by Associated Press | Moscow | Published: April 6, 2013 3:33 am

North Korea has warned diplomats in its capital Pyongyang that it can’t guarantee the safety of embassies in the event of a conflict and suggested they may want to evacuate their staff,Russia’s top diplomat said on Friday.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is demanding an explanation from the North Koreans — asking whether the warning is an order to evacuate or merely a proposal that they should consider doing so.

“This proposal has been sent to all the embassies in Pyongyang,” Lavrov said. “We are now trying to clarify the situation. We asked our North Korean neighbours a few questions that need to be asked in this situation.”

About two dozen countries have embassies in North Korea. Lavrov was quoted during a visit to Uzbekistan as saying Russia is in touch with China,the United States,Japan and South Korea – all members of a dormant talks process with North Korea – to try and figure out the motivation behind the warning.

“We are very worried by inciting of tension,even though it’s verbal so far,” he said. “We would like to understand the reasons behind the proposal to evacuate the embassies,whether it’s a decision of the North Korean leadership or a proposal. We were told it’s a proposal.’’

North Korea’s government did not comment on the embassy warnings’ report. Tension has been simmering over the past few weeks following a North Korean nuclear test and the country’s subsequent warnings to South Korea and the United States that it would be prepared to attack.

Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed it had received the warning,which it called part of ongoing rhetoric from Pyongyang to portray the US as a threat.

“The British Embassy in Pyongyang received a communication from the North Korean government this morning saying the North Korean government would be unable to guarantee the safety of embassies and international organizations in the country in the event of conflict from April 10th,” it said in a statement. Britain said it was “considering next steps” and had no immediate plans to withdraw from Pyongyang.

The US Embassy in Seoul issued a notice to Americans in South Korea,saying it had “no specific information to suggest an imminent threat to US citizens or facilities.”

Other nations with diplomatic missions in North Korea,such as India,Romania,Poland,Bulgaria and the Czech Republic also said they were weighing the situation carefully. The Czechs said they had no plans to withdraw; the Romanians and Bulgarians were speaking with the 27-nation European Union about the situation.

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