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N. Korea warns embassies it can't guarantee safety

By Jim Heintz

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:30 p.m. HST, Apr 05, 2013

MOSCOW » North Korea has warned diplomats in its capital of 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 today.

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 neighbors 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 that 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 to figure out the motivation behind the warning.

"We are very much worried by inciting of tensions, 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. Tensions have been roiling in 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 that it had received the warning, which it called part of ongoing rhetoric from Pyongyang to portray the U.S. as a threat.

"The British Embassy in Pyongyang received a communication from the North Korean government this morning saying that 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.

Other nations with diplomatic missions in North Korea, such as the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and India, 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.

"Naturally, we assess that there is no outside threat to North Korea whatsoever," said Marcin Bosacki, spokesman for Poland's Foreign Ministry. "In our opinion, the current military rhetoric is exclusively directed to the internal audience and does not reflect the true international intentions of the country."

Sweden said North Korea's foreign ministry had a meeting with foreign diplomats but didn't order them to leave.

"It was a meeting that dealt with the security situation in the country, where the North Koreans asked whether there was any need for assistance in case of an evacuation," Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Teo Zetterman said. "But North Korea didn't put forward a demand to evacuate."

A spokesman for the Russian embassy in Pyongyang told Russian media the mission was working normally.

Russia has appeared increasingly upset with neighboring North Korea. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich on Thursday strongly criticized North Korea for its "defiant neglect" of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

A Russian ministry statement today after the embassy evacuations proposal said "We are counting on maximum restraint and composure from all sides."

AP writers Karl Ritter in Stockholm, Danica Kirka in London, Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, and Karel Janicek in Prague, Czech Republic, contributed to this story.

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loquaciousone wrote:
I'm getting a little tired of this little fat ball of turd. If he don't stop with the stomach bumps, I going to North Korea and burn all their won boks.
on April 5,2013 | 09:18AM
allie wrote:
I want less rhetoric on both sides. Lives are at stake. This is nto a comic book routine!
on April 5,2013 | 10:03AM
juscasting wrote:
If this was told to embassy's during the cold war most countries would assume this meant WAR!
on April 5,2013 | 09:21AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Anyone ever seen the "Nobody move. Or. . . " scene in "Blazing Saddles"? Seems to me Kim has been watching that movie. The question is, "are we that dumb, or is he that smart?"
on April 5,2013 | 09:28AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Would he be the sheriff or the Hedley Lamarr?
on April 5,2013 | 09:40AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Kim is the sheriff.
on April 5,2013 | 10:15AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
No doubt Kim was encouraged by the Benghazi model.
on April 5,2013 | 09:29AM
soshaljustic wrote:
Amusing as it may be for the little emissary of Russia and China to lead the way in sorry behavior as a message of strength to it's own people, the question remains, will the former countries be able to educate the emissary on global etiquette or...
on April 5,2013 | 09:38AM
cojef wrote:
The North Koreans appears to be paranoid when they are sending safety warnings indicating that they cannot gurantee the safety of the foreign embassies. Are their fears of attack by the US as real or more propaganda directed at their masses for more food shotages to come. Better tighten up your belts, as long as the belicose rhetoric continues, certainly foreign aid in the form food supplis will not be forthcoming.
on April 5,2013 | 11:37AM
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