By Stepan Kravchenko and Henry Meyer
MOSCOW — North Korea asked Russia and other countries to consider evacuating their diplomats from the capital as tensions mount with its southern neighbor, warning that embassies can't be protected in the event of a conflict.
A North Korean Foreign Ministry official met Russian Ambassador Alexander Timonin on Friday to deliver the message, said Denis Samsonov, a spokesman for the embassy in Pyongyang. The British Embassy was told by the Asian nation's government that it won't be able to guarantee the safety of foreign missions starting April 10 if a conflict flares up, the Foreign Office in London said. Britain later said it had no plans to pull out staff for now.
"We are consulting international partners about these developments," the Foreign Office said in an emailed statement. "No decisions have been taken, and we have no immediate plans to withdraw our embassy."
The warning to diplomats in Pyongyang is part of "an escalating series of rhetorical statements, and the question is to what end," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington Friday. "We all know that this is an unpredictable regime and an unpredictable situation."
While taking "appropriate measures" to defend the U.S. and its allies and deter North Korea, the United States still wants "to leave the door open if the DPRK is willing to make a different choice," she said.
Nuland noted a release Thursday from the U.S. embassy in Seoul which said that "despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats" to Americans or U.S. facilities in South Korea.
Sweden, which represents American interests in North Korea, where the U.S. doesn't have an embassy, hasn't given any indication that it will change its operations there, Nuland said.