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No plans to withdraw diplomats from North Korea: UK


First published: April 5, 2013, 10:50 PM IST | Updated: April 5, 2013
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No plans to withdraw diplomats from North Korea: UK
Pyongyang had warned that it cannot protect foreign embassies after April 10 in the event of a conflict linked to soaring nuclear tensions.

London: Britain on Friday said it has no immediate plans to withdraw its diplomats from North Korea and condemned as provocative Pyongyang's warning that it cannot protect foreign embassies after April 10 in the event of a conflict linked to soaring nuclear tensions. "No decisions have been taken and we have no immediate plans to withdraw our embassy," a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) statement said here on Friday.

"Earlier today, the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed a number of embassies of foreign countries in Pyongyang, including the British embassy, and representatives of international organisations that they would be unable to guarantee the safety of embassies and international organisations present in the country in the event of conflict. We are consulting international partners about these developments," it added.

North Korea had called a meeting of a number of organisations in Pyongyang to offer an April 10 deadline for any assistance required in the view of an evacuation or relocation as tensions in the region escalated. According to latest reports by South Korea's Yonhap news agency, the North had moved two missiles to its east coast and loaded them onto launchers. In response to the continued threats, the South has deployed two warships that have missile-defence systems.

"In recent weeks, the North Korean government has raised tensions on the Korean peninsula and the wider region through a series of public statements and other provocations. We condemn this behaviour and urge the North Korean government to work constructively with the international community, including over the presence of foreign embassies," said the FCO, which has had a presence in North Korea since 2001 concentrating on counter-proliferation and human rights but did not reveal the number of staff currently on the ground.

There is also a British Council project to train English language teachers in the country, besides a consular section. The current ambassador to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is Michael Gifford, formerly the British ambassador to Yemen and the deputy head of the mission in
Cairo. The latest development comes a day after Prime Minister David Cameron warned that North Korea now possessed the capability to launch a nuclear strike against Britain as part of his argument in favour of retaining the UK s Trident nuclear deterrent.

"North Korea does now have missile technology that is able to reach, as they put it, the whole of the United States and if they are able to reach the whole of the United States they can reach Europe too. They can reach us too, so that is a real concern," he had said in an address to defence workers in Scotland on Thursday. Russia is also among the countries warned about its diplomatic presence in the country and is believed to be weighing its options.