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North Korea urges foreign embassies to evacuate, Russian official says

April 05, 2013|By Sergei L. Loiko
  • South Korean soldiers man a cannon at a military training field near the border city of Paju.
South Korean soldiers man a cannon at a military training field near the… (Jung Yeon-je / AFP/Getty…)

MOSCOW -- North Korea has recommended that foreign embassies and consulates evacuate their personnel from the country given rising tensions with the U.S. and South Korea, a top Russian official said Friday.

"This suggestion was received by all the consulates in Pyongyang, and now we are trying to clarify the situation," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters during a visit to Uzbekistan. "We put before our North Korean neighbors several questions necessary to be asked in such a case."

North Korea has issued repeated threats against the U.S. and South Korea following recent military exercises carried out by the two allies and fresh United Nations sanctions imposed on the North. The sanctions followed a successful rocket launch and a nuclear warhead test carried out by Pyongyang.

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Lavrov said Russia is very much concerned with the "verbal aggravation of the tension," and another Russian official implied that the threat of war was real.

"In fact, an evacuation means the severance of [diplomatic] relations, but nevertheless the state must know what is going to happen there even at the price of lives of some individual diplomats, whether they will be mad at me or not," Vladimir Komoyedov, the chief of the defense committee in the Russian parliament's lower house, said to RIA Novosti. "Some of the bravest people should be left there to inform our country of the developments."

Even if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is bluffing, his bluff can entail quite unpredictable and possibly catastrophic consequences, Russian defense expert Igor Korotchenko warned.

"I am sure Kim is bluffing, just to continue his saber-rattling [and] not to lose face in the prolonged crisis," Korotchenko, editor in chief of the National Defense monthly journal, said in an interview. "In any case, his bluff creates a situation in which the United States may carry out a special military operation to pull out North Korean nuclear fangs for good."

U.S. officials do not believe that North Korea has perfected a nuclear warhead small enough to be mounted on a missile, but they have repeatedly expressed concerns about the North's continued efforts to develop such an arsenal.

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