MOSCOW - North Korea asked Russia and other states 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 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 Friday 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 in an emailed statement.
Russia is "alarmed" by the tensions on the Korean peninsula and is in "close contact" with the United States, China, Japan and South Korea over the proposal to empty diplomatic missions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, according to a statement on the ministry's website. Russia also sought clarification from the government in Pyongyang, he said.
A crisis is escalating after the communist nation threatened to wage nuclear war on the U.S. and South Korea. Kim Jong Un's regime warned this week that "the moment of explosion is approaching soon" and said it's poised to conduct a "smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike." North Korea also has moved a missile to its eastern coast rocket-launch site, possibly for test-firing, according to South Korea's defense minister.
The North Korean initiative was prompted by "the escalating situation" in the region, the Russian diplomat in Pyongyang said, adding that there were no tensions currently in the capital city.
The proposal is now under consideration, Samsonov said by phone, adding that the decision won't be made Friday. More than 100 people work in the Russian embassy, he said.
Russia, which shares a 17-kilometer (11 miles) border with North Korea, agreed last September to write off 90 percent of the reclusive Asian nation's $11 billion debt that dated back to the Soviet period and settle the remaining 10 percent via joint projects in health care, education and energy. Late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited Russia in August 2011 for talks with then-President Dmitry Medvedev.