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North Korea warns foreigners to leave South in advance of 'merciless, sacred, all-out war'

Claiming they will soon be engaged in a war with South Korea, North Korean officials are advising foreigners to leave the region. Pyongyang is expected to carry out a show of force with a missile that will land in the ocean. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

SEOUL - North Korea warned foreigners in South Korea on Tuesday to leave the country because they were at risk in the event of conflict, the latest threat of war from Pyongyang.

Soaring tensions on the peninsula have been fuelled by North Korean anger over the imposition of U.N. sanctions after its last nuclear arms test in February, creating one of the worst crises since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

"We do not wish harm on foreigners in South Korea should there be a war," said the KCNA news agency, citing its Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.

KCNA said once war broke out "it will be an all-out war, a merciless, sacred, retaliatory war to be waged by (North Korea)."

They added, "the committee informs all foreign institutions and enterprises and foreigners, including tourists...that they are requested to take measures for shelter and evacuation in advance for their safety."

Pyongyang last week advised embassies there to consider pulling out in case of war. Earlier on Tuesday, North Korean workers failed to turn up at a factory complex operated with South Korea, effectively shutting down the last major symbol of cooperation between the hostile neighbors.

The North Korea government pulled thousands of workers from an industrial factory – jointly run with South Korea – a dramatic move for an extremely impoverished country – as fears mount that the North is poised to test fire two missiles. Amb. Nick Burns discusses.

Few embassies in Seoul have advised their citizens to quit. The United States, which has also been threatened by Pyongyang, has said there were no imminent signs of threats to American citizens.

Pyongyang has shown no sign of preparing its 1.2 million-strong army for war, indicating the threats could be partly intended for domestic purposes to bolster Kim Jong Un, 30, the third in his family to lead the reclusive country.

South Korea's president said she was disappointed at North Korea's decision to halt operations at the Kaesong industrial park, which generates $2 billion in trade for the impoverished state.

News of the Kaesong closure diverted attention from speculation that the North was about to launch some sort of provocative act this week -- perhaps a missile launch or new nuclear test. However, residents of Seoul carried on with daily activities with no trace of anxiety.

Few experts had expected Pyongyang to jeopardize Kaesong, which employs more than 50,000 North Koreans making household goods for 123 South Korean firms.

World leaders have expressed alarm at the crisis and the prospect of a conflict involving a country claiming to be developing nuclear weapons.

Amb. Dennis Ross discusses the rising tensions with North Korea and the role China plays in the conflict  as well as Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to Israel to revive Mideast peace.

China, the North's sole diplomatic and financial ally, has shown increasing impatience with Pyongyang. Russian President Vladimir Putin said hostilities could create a cataclysm worse than the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The North is also angry at weeks of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises off the coast of the peninsula, with B-2 stealth bombers dispatched from their U.S. bases.

But the United States announced the postponement last weekend of a long-planned missile launch, a move officials said was aimed at easing tensions on the peninsula.

North Korean authorities told embassies in Pyongyang they could not guarantee their safety from Wednesday, after saying conflict was inevitable amid the joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises due to last until the end of the month. No diplomats appear to have left the North Korean capital.

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