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N. Korea warns foreign diplomats of 'grave inter-Korean situations': Seoul official

All Headlines 12:04 April 08, 2013

SEOUL, April 8 (Yonhap) -- Just two days after warning foreign diplomatic missions to leave Pyongyang, North Korea briefed foreign officials on the developments on the Korean Peninsula, but did not reiterate the warning to evacuate, a senior official at Seoul's foreign ministry said Monday.

North Korea's foreign ministry on Friday asked foreign embassy officials based in Pyongyang to leave, saying a war could break out soon and the safety of foreigners could not be guaranteed, but the call for withdrawal was not mentioned during Sunday's meeting, according a foreign ministry official, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

No embassies have yet to make a move out of the country.

"We've learned that Kim Yong-chol called diplomats and military attaches working for the foreign diplomatic missions in Pyongyang on Sunday, and briefed officials about the threats from South Korea and the United States making the situation on the Korean Peninsula grave," said the official, adding that the communist country claimed the annual joint military drills posed a threat to their safety.

"Nobody at the embassies stationed in the North said general Kim told them to leave the country (on Sunday) according to our confirmation via diplomatic channels," the Seoul official said, adding not all diplomats called by the communist country participated in the meeting.

As the North's hard-line general, Kim heads the Army's Reconnaissance General Bureau suspected of being involved in a series of provocations against the South.

A total of 24 foreign diplomatic missions exist in Pyongyang, including the Chinese and Russian embassies. There also are a handful of representative offices of international agencies in the capital.

Calling the latest briefing a part of the North's effort to mount psychological pressure on South Korea and the U.S., the Seoul official said the North "tried to take advantage of the diplomatic channels through which it can diffuse its messages to the international arena in a swift fashion."

"Kim did not also reportedly mention anything about its additional nuclear test," said the Seoul official. "We are closely but calmly watching the developments and moves in the North."

Tensions have been escalating on the Korean Peninsula over Pyongyang's near-daily threats of war, particularly after the North's Feb. 12 nuclear test, which earned the country fresh U.N. sanctions. Joint annual U.S.-South Korea military drills in March also contributed to the North's threats.

Last week, Pyongyang began blocking South Korean workers and cargo from entering the South Korea-run industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

The North had previously halted movement to and from Kaesong on three occasions in March 2009 when Seoul and Washington were conducting military exercises.


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