Evacuation warnings, missile fears stoke N Korea crisis

Foreign diplomats in Pyongyang were considering a North Korean evacuation advisory as concerns grew that the isolated state was preparing a missile launch.

Updated: Apr 06, 2013, 17:41 PM IST

SEOUL: Foreign diplomats in Pyongyang were considering a North Korean evacuation advisory on Saturday as concerns grew that the isolated state was preparing a missile launch at a time of soaring nuclear tensions.

Bulgaria said the heads of EU missions would meet to hammer out a common position after Pyongyang warned embassies it could not guarantee their safety if a conflict broke out and that they should consider leaving.

Most of their governments made it clear they had no immediate plans to withdraw personnel, and some suggested the advisory was a ruse to fuel growing global anxiety over the current crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Ahead of Saturday`s meeting in Pyongyang, Germany said its embassy in North Korea will continue working for the time being.

"The security of the German embassy and its exposure to danger are continually being evaluated," the German foreign ministry said in a statement. "For now, the embassy can continue working."

Meanwhile a British Foreign Office spokeswoman, commenting on the North`s advisory, said, "We believe they have taken this step as part of their country`s rhetoric that the US poses a threat to them."

South Korea`s presidential office said Saturday it had detected no noticeable developments in its review of the latest situation in the North, reported Yonhap.

"It was determined at the meeting that for now, there are no particular signs of changes or developments in Pyongyang or in any other cities," said an official quoted by Yonhap.

Western tourists returning from organised tours in Pyongyang -- which have continued despite the tensions -- said the situation on the ground appeared calm, with life going on as normal.

"We`re glad to be back but we didn`t feel frightened when we were there," said Tina Krabbe, from Denmark, arriving in Beijing after five days in the North.

South Korean soldiers patrol along a military fence near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Paju, on April 5, 2013

The embassy warning on Friday coincided with reports that North Korea had loaded two intermediate-range missiles on mobile launchers and hidden them in underground facilities near its east coast.

"The North is apparently intent on firing the missiles without prior warning," the South`s Yonhap news agency quoted a senior government official as saying.

They were reported to be untested Musudan missiles which are believed to have a range of around 3,000 kilometres (1,860 miles) that could theoretically be pushed to 4,000 kilometres with a light payload.

That would cover any target in South Korea and Japan, and possibly even reach US military bases located on the Pacific island of Guam.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Friday that Washington "would not be surprised" by a missile test, which would "fit their current pattern of bellicose, unhelpful and unconstructive rhetoric and actions".

North Korea, incensed by UN sanctions and South Korea-US military drills, has issued a series of apocalyptic threats of nuclear war in recent weeks.