(NEW YORK) — North Korea advised the Russian and British embassies in Pyongyang on Friday to evacuate their staffs, saying their safety could be at risk “in the event of conflict from April 10.”
“The proposal was made to all the embassies in Pyongyang, and we are now trying to shed light on the situation,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office in Britain confirmed the request in a statement: “The British Embassy in Pyongyang received a communication from the North Korean government this morning.”
The news was the latest escalation of tension on the Korean Peninsula — spurred by near daily bellicose threats North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made — since the U.S. and South Korea began large scale military exercises last month.
On Thursday, U.S. officials confirmed that two medium-range missiles had been moved to North Korea’s eastern coast, fueling speculation that North Korea was planning a missile strike.
In response, South Korea sent two Aegis destroyers equipped with advanced radar systems to both its coasts. The untested North Korean Musudan missile is estimated to have a range of between 1,800 and 2,500 miles, potentially putting U.S. military bases in Okinawa and Guam within its range.
The call to evacuate foreign embassies appeared to be the latest tactic by North Korea to dial up the rhetoric and win concessions from the U.S. and South Korea. Pyongyang has already threatened a nuclear strike against the U.S., declared it has scrapped the Korean War armistice, vowed to restart a plutonium reactor, and blocked South Koreans from entering the jointly run industrial complex in Kaesong.
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Ralph Ellis and Steve Almasy, CNN
Roshni Majumdar, CNN
Mohammed Tawfeeq, Joe Sterling and Susanna Capelouto, CNN
Steve Almasy, CNN