North Korea tells foreigners in South to consider evacuation

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A South Korean vehicle carrying boxes, returning from the North Korean city of Kaesong arrives at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, April 9, 2013. North Korean workers didn’t show up for work at the Kaesong industrial complex, a jointly run factory with South Korea on Tuesday, a day after Pyongyang suspended operations at the last remaining major economic link between rivals locked in an increasingly hostile relationship. AP/Lee Jin-man

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea is urging all foreign companies and tourists in South Korea to evacuate because it says the rival Koreas are on the eve of a nuclear war.

South Korean soldiers salute a military vehicle as it leads South Korean vehicles from the North Korean city of Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, April 9, 2013. North Korean workers didn’t show up for work at the Kaesong industrial complex, a jointly run factory complex with South Korea on Tuesday, a day after Pyongyang suspended operations at the last remaining major economic link between rivals locked in an increasingly hostile relationship. AP/Lee Jin-man

Analysts see a direct attack on Seoul as extremely unlikely. The warning Tuesday from the North’s Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee is similar to past threats that analysts call an attempt to raise anxiety in foreign capitals.

Observers say a torrent of North Korean prophesies of doom is partly meant to win Pyongyang-friendly policy changes in Seoul and Washington and to boost the image of leader Kim Jong Un.

The warning followed a similar evacuation advisory the North gave Friday to foreign embassies in Pyongyang, saying it could not ensure the safety of their personnel if war broke out.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula is heading for a thermo-nuclear war,” said Tuesday’s statement which was attributed to the North’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.

“In the event of war, we don’t want foreigners living in South Korea to get hurt,” said the statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

It urged “all foreign organisations, companies and tourists to work out measures for evacuation”.

After last week’s embassy warning, most governments involved made it clear they had no immediate plans to withdraw personnel from their Pyongyang missions and some suggested the advisory was a ruse to fuel growing global anxiety over the current crisis on the Korean peninsula.

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