North Korea asks Russia, UK to mull leaving embassies

Posted at 04/06/2013 12:13 AM | Updated as of 04/06/2013 12:13 AM

MOSCOW - North Korea asked Russia and Britain on Friday to consider evacuating staff from their embassies in Pyongyang because of increasing tension on the Korean peninsula.

Russian embassy spokesman Denis Samsonov said Moscow is 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.

He said other foreign embassies had received similar requests.

A North Korean Foreign Ministry representative "proposed that the Russian side consider the issue of the evacuation of employees in connection with the increasingly tense situation," Samsonov said.

North Korea has said nuclear conflict could break out at any time on the Korean peninsula, in a month-long war of words that has prompted the United States to move military assets into the region.

According to South Korean media, North Korea has placed two of its intermediate-range missiles on mobile launchers and hidden them on the east coast of the country, in a move that could threaten Japan or U.S. Pacific bases.

Tensions have increased since the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea in early March, seeking to curtail its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes after it conducted its third nuclear test.

Britain, meanwhile, said said it regarded the query as part of an anti-U.S. information campaign.

"We believe they have taken this step as part of their continuing rhetoric that the US poses a threat to them. We are considering next steps, including a change to our travel advice," Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement.

North Korea "has responsibilities under the Vienna convention to protect diplomatic missions," it said.

Britain has a full embassy in Pyongyang which a Foreign Office spokesman said included a small staff. He declined to elaborate.