North Korea tells foreigners in South to take safety measures

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
By Paul Martin
April 9, 2013

NORTH KOREA – North Korea issued its latest dispatch of ominous rhetoric Tuesday, telling foreigners in South Korea they should take steps to secure shelter or evacuation to protect themselves in the event of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula. The unnerving message came as Japan set up missile defenses in Tokyo, and North Korean workers failed to turn up for work in the industrial complex jointly operated by North and South Korea. In the statement published by state-run media Tuesday, the North’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee reiterated accusations that Washington and Seoul were seeking to provoke a war with Pyongyang. “Once a war is ignited on the peninsula, it will be an all-out war,” the committee said, adding that North Korea doesn’t want foreigners in South Korea to “fall victim” to a conflict. It follows a warning from the North last week to diplomats in its capital city, Pyongyang, that if war were to break out, it would not be able to guarantee their safety. North Korea’s ‘bluff for rewards’ history. But staff at the British Embassy in Seoul appeared unimpressed by the North’s most recent attempt to rattle nerves in the region. “We are not commenting on the specifics of every piece of rhetoric from North Korea,” said Colin Gray, head of media affairs at the embassy. “Our travel advice remains unchanged. At this moment, we see no immediate threat to British citizens in South Korea.” Several Western countries said last week they had no plans to withdraw staff from Pyongyang after the North’s warning to diplomats there. And foreign visitors in Seoul didn’t appear to be panicking Tuesday. “I am concerned, but not enough not to make the trip,” said Vicky Polashock, who was visiting from Atlanta. She said that there was more tension than she’d noticed on previous visits to South Korea, but that the North’s latest threat “doesn’t heighten the danger any more than the last couple of weeks.” North Korea has unleashed a torrent of dramatic threats against the United States and South Korea in recent weeks, including that of a possible nuclear strike. But many analysts have cautioned that much of what Kim Jong Un’s regime is saying is bluster, noting that it is believed to still be years away from developing an operational nuclear missile. A more likely scenario, they say, is a localized provocative move. Amid the fiery words from Pyongyang and annual military training exercises by U.S. and South Korean forces in the region, government officials in Washington and Seoul say they are taking the North Korean threat seriously. The North was blamed for two attacks on South Korea in 2010 — one on a navy vessel and another on the island of Yeonpyeong — that killed 50 people. Pyongyang still denies responsibility for the sinking of the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, in which 46 sailors died. On Tuesday, Japan said it had deployed missile defense systems around Tokyo amid expectations that the North could carry out a missile test in the coming days. The Japanese government is making “every possible effort to protect the Japanese people and ensure their safety,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Patriot missile batteries were set up in the central Tokyo district of Ichigaya and in the suburbs of Asaka and Narashino, authorities said. South Korean government officials have said they think North Korea could conduct the test launch of a missile as soon as Wednesday, following reports that the North had loaded as many as two medium-range missiles onto mobile launchers on its east coast. –CNN

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