North Korea warns Britain to evacuate embassy in Pyongyang and moves mid-range missiles to coast sparking fears of imminent strike

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In response to the continued threats South Korea deployed two warships that have missile-defence systems

Rob Williams

Friday, 5 April 2013

North Korea has advised Britain to evacuate its embassy in Pyongyang saying it will not be able to guarantee the safety of staff in the event of conflict from April 10th.

The Foreign Office confirmed that the British Embassy in Pyongyang had received a communication from the North Korean government and said it was “considering next steps”.

A spokesman said the Pyongyang regime had responsibilities to protect embassies under international conventions and claimed the latest move was “part of their continuing rhetoric” that the United States poses a threat.

Earlier today it emerged that Russia had also been asked to consider evacuating staff from its embassy in Pyongyang because of the increasing tension on the Korean peninsula.

A spokesman said Russia was examining the request but was not planning an evacuation at this stage, and there were no outward signs of increased tension in the North Korean capital itself.

North Korea moved two missiles to its east coast and loaded them onto launchers, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has said.

In response to the continued threats South Korea deployed two warships that have missile-defence systems.

The news came as fears of an imminent missile strike from the North unsettled financial markets in South Korea.

Military officials in South Korea said that two warships were to be deployed on the east and west coasts of the country. Despite anxiety in the region over continuing tensions, Seoul has been keen to play down the threat – stating today that the missile moves could be tests.

A senior official was quoted by Yonhap saying: “It has been confirmed that North Korea, early this week, transported two Musudan mid-range missiles by train to the east coast and loaded them on vehicles equipped with launch pads.”

Musudan missiles have an range of 4,000km, putting Japan, Guam and South Korea within its range.

The news came after a further day of tension, during which the Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that North Korea now possessed the capability to launch a nuclear strike against Britain.

The Prime Minister pointed to the escalating threats from the regime in Pyongyang as evidence of the need for the United Kingdom to retain the Trident nuclear deterrent.

The bellicose rhetoric from North Korea has escalated in recent weeks and months after sanctions were imposed on the country following a nuclear test in February.

Tensions were further inflamed last week when South Korea and the US carried out joint military drills in the region using nuclear-enabled B-2 stealth bombers.

Intelligence officials from the US, Japan and South Korea were said today to be monitoring the movement of the weapons.

The United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon said today that daily reports from Pyongyang were “alarming and troubling”.

He urged North Korea to ease tensions.”Nuclear threat is not a game, it is very serious,” he said.

Today Asia experts speculated that North Korea’s latest outburst of nuclear and military threats has given the US a rare opportunity to build bridges with China and revitalize the Obama administration’s flagging policy pivot to Asia.

The architect of the administration’s Asia policy described a subtle change in Chinese thinking as a result of Pyongyang’s recent nuclear tests, rocket launches and abandonment of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 war with South Korea.

Pyongyang has taken similar actions in the past, prompting Washington to increase military readiness in the region to soothe allies South Korea and Japan. But in an unusual rebuke this week, Beijing called North Korea’s moves “regrettable” — amounting to a slap from the country’s strongest economic and diplomatic supporter.

“They, I think, recognize that the actions that North Korea has taken in recent months and years are in fact antithetical to their own national security interests,” former Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told a panel Thursday at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

“There is a subtle shift in Chinese foreign policy” toward North Korea, said Campbell, who retired in February as the administration’s top diplomat in East Asia and the Pacific region. “I think that they have succeeded in undermining trust and confidence in Beijing.”



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