In latest threat, N. Korea warns diplomats on safety

In the latest in an extended series of threats and provocations, North Korea has suggested that foreign countries evacuate their embassies in Pyongyang because of what it claims is the danger of imminent war:

The British 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 10.”

The North’s behavior has begun to set South Koreans, who usually ignore the regime’s rhetoric, ill at ease, as Chico Harlan reports from Seoul:

Coffee shops here are still packed, and pop music pulses from storefronts, but South Koreans’ concerns are palpable in quieter moments. Their phones buzz with news updates on the North’s latest moves — its declaration of war; its announcement of plans to restart key nuclear facilities; its barricade of a joint industrial complex near the border. Children ask their parents what would happen if fighting broke out and where they would go for safety.

On Thursday, the fear spread to South Korea’s stock market, which suffered its biggest daily fall of the year. The South’s defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, said the North had moved an intermediate-range missile to its eastern coast, perhaps for testing or drills.

The North Korean missile arsenal has a limited range, according to a map Max Fisher discusses at WorldViews. He writes that the redeployed missile, the KN-08, has not been tested:

The most bullish analysis of the KN-08’s potential threat that I’ve seen this week, published in the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, speculated that North Korea had only moved them to the coast so that, in the event of a test launch, they would be less likely to fall onto North Korean soil.

Still, he worries that if South Korea, nervous about the safety of its citizens, attacks preemptively, war could be inevitable. Meanwhile, the United States and other countries are taking the North’s threats seriously. The Pentagon said yesterday it was deploying a missile defense system to Guam:

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) is a land-based system designed to destroy incoming short- , medium- and intermediate-range missiles by crashing into them in the air. Only two batteries of the system, produced by Lockheed Martin, are currently deployed, both at Fort Bliss, Tex.

A Pentagon statement said the system should arrive in Guam “in the coming weeks as a precautionary move to strengthen our regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat.”

Find reviews of books about North Korea here. For more on recent events, continue reading here.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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