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North Korea: Foreign embassy staff may not be safe if there's war

The missiles recently moved to North Korea's east coast aren't believed capable of carrying nuclear warheads and may not even be armed,but Pyongyang has warned foreign diplomats to have evacuation plans ready. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

North Korea told foreign embassies Friday that it will not be able to guarantee their safety “in the event of conflict” from April 10, the U.K. said in a statement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow was in close contact with the United States, China, South Korea and Japan over a North Korean request to consider the possibility of evacuating embassies, Russian news agencies reported.

"The proposal was made to the embassies in Pyongyang, and we are trying to clarify the situation," Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying during a visit to Uzbekistan. "We are in close contact with our Chinese partners as well as the Americans, the South Koreans and the Japanese.”

A statement from the U.K. Foreign Office said its embassy “received a communication from the North Korean government this morning saying that the North Korean government would be unable to guarantee the safety of embassies and international organizations in the country in the event of conflict from April 10th.”

Experts say a ground war with North Korea would be devastating, with 700,000 North Korean soldiers aiming thousands of rockets and artillery at South Korea. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.

“No decisions have been taken, and we have no immediate plans to withdraw our embassy,” the U.K. said in a later statement.

The significance of April 10 was unclear. However, the North told South Korean companies that operate factories in the Kaesong industrial zone to complete pulling out by April 10, Ok Sung-suk, vice president of an association that represents them, said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

The missiles aren't capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, however they do have a range of about 2000 miles which means they are within reach of South Korea. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Friday that North Korea’s actions were “part of an escalating pattern of hot rhetoric.”

“We’ve seen this sort of pattern in the past,” she said. “What seems to be somewhat different is the level of the rhetoric and the pace of provocation.”

Speaking at “Women in the World,” a summit on women’s rights in New York, Rice said North Korea was isolating itself further by creating situations that were leading to maximum international sanctions.

“The reality is, North Korea says it wants security, says it’s wants economic development,” she said. “I think what would be much wiser for Kim Jung Un as he assesses how to lead his country is to step back and to heed what has been the call of President Obama and other world leaders and to choose the path of peace.”

She added, “Obviously thus far, he seems to be pushing the envelope.”

On Thursday, the State Department said the United States had to take necessary defensive steps in light of North Korea's escalating threats.

But it also emphasized that it could "change course" if the North stopped issuing threats.

"The moves that we have been making are designed to ensure and to reassure the American people and our allies that we can defend the United States, that we will and that we can defend our allies," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"It was the ratcheting up of tensions on the DPRK [the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or North Korea's official name] side that caused us to need to shore up our own defense posture,” she said.

Nuland added that while the U.S. took North Korea's "bellicose threats" seriously, the situation on the Korean Peninsula "does not need to get hotter."

Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland discusses the increase of aggressive rhetoric that is being expressed on a regular basis by the North Korean government.

"We can change course here if the DPRK will begin to come back into compliance with its international obligations, will begin to cool things down, take a pause," she added.

Ambassador Rice also underscored that de-escalation of a nuclear threat was the primary goal of the U.S. government.

 “The United States is ready to do what it takes to defend ourselves and defend our allies in the region should that be necessary,” she said. “Our aim remains though that there to be a de-escalation of these tensions and ideally addressing the nuclear threat through the nuclear table.”

Rice called on China, which shares a border with North Korea, to press Kim more.

“China can do more. It is implementing the sanctions that we negotiated and pass. But clearly with the border that they have, with the economic relationship they have, they can do more,” she said, “But you can tell by the nature of their statements, the nature of their actions, they are very much of the view that Kim Jung Un has gone too far … The reality is, we’re united. Kim Jung Un and North Korea are increasingly isolated, including from China.”

A U.S. intelligence officer said Thursday that North Korea was moving a medium-range missile to a site in the east of the country. The official declined to say where the Musudan missile was headed, but the North has used a site near the Russian border on the coast for its missile tests in the past.

Citing intelligence sources, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Friday that a second intermediate-range missile had been hidden on the east coast of North Korea. 

NBC News' Elizabeth Chuck, Catherine Chomiak, and Reuters contributed to this report.


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