UK diplomats remain in place despite North Korea warning as Pyongyang moves missiles onto coast prompting fears of imminent attack

Beijing is believed to have sent private messages to Kim Jong-un urging caution

British and other foreign embassies in Pyongyang still appeared to be remaining in place on Saturday evening after North Korea warned that it could not guarantee their safety.

Diplomats from the relatively small number of states which maintain missions in the country were asked to the Foreign Ministry and told that they would be given help to move out by next Wednesday because of the threat of conflict with the United States and South Korea.

The move by Kim Jong-un’s regime, which appears to have caught the international community by surprise, was being interpreted as yet another attempt to ratchet up tension and reinforce the message that it is serious about its military challenge.

The pariah state has recently issued a series of threatening statements, including a declaration this week that its military is authorised to launch a nuclear attack on the United States. South Korea deployed two warships with missile defence systems after news reports declared the North had moved a second missile to its east coast, though the South said it did not necessarily regard the North’s move as a hostile act.

The current UK ambassador, Michael Gifford, has been living in North Korea, accompanied by his wife, Patricia, for the past six months. The Foreign Office stressed that North Korea “has responsibilities under the Vienna Convention to protect diplomatic missions, and we believe they have taken this step as part of their continuing rhetoric that the US poses a threat to them.

“In recent weeks, the North Korean government has raised tensions on the Korean peninsula and the wider region through a series of public statements and other provocations. We condemn this behaviour and urge the North Korean government to work constructively with the international community, including over the presence of foreign embassies.”

North Korea’s action was not in retaliation to David Cameron declaring that its missiles pose an existential threat to the UK. The claim, which is related to domestic debate about the Trident nuclear deterrent, has been widely disparaged – there is no evidence that Pyongyang possesses such military capability.

Sergei Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, which also has an embassy in Pyongyang, that it was similarly advised to evacuate, said: “We have had this proposal for evacuation. We are in close contact with our Chinese partners as well as the Americans, the South Koreans and the Japanese.”

He said Moscow was “deeply concerned about the escalation of tension, which for now is verbal”. The Czech Republic, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and India, which also hold diplomatic missions in North Korea, said they were weighing the situation carefully.

China, which has supported North Korea economically as well as politically in the past, has shown increasing exasperation at aggressive rhetoric and actions by Pyongyang, calling it “regrettable”. Beijing is believed to have sent private messages to Kim Jong-un urging caution.

North Korea did, however, receive encouragement from one state – Iran. Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, the armed forces deputy chief, blamed tensions in the region on “excessive demands by the United States... and its tightening of the noose on North Korea. Independent countries do not submit to American adventurism”.

Both Iran and North Korea are under United Nations’ Security Council sanctions for their ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. A 2011 UN report said Tehran and Pyongyang were suspected of sharing ballistic missile technology.

It remains unclear just how close Seoul thinks its northern neighbour is edging towards war. The latest batch of propaganda footage sent from Pyongyang contained images of Kim Jong-un carrying out target practice with a pistol. At the same time, the South Korean army released film of reservists taking part in a “Gangnam Style” dance led by a cheerleader.

The sabre-rattling, however, has continued. North Korea is reported to have loaded the the two missile batteries on its east coast on to launchers. Seoul’s two warships have been dispatched to the east and west coast of the country.

The North Korean missiles are of the Musudan class, with a range of 4,000km, putting Japan and Guam – where the Americans have a military base – as well as South Korea, within their range.

Korean diplomacy: Embassy outposts

North Korea’s memo to the British Embassy in Pyongyang is the latest glimpse into an esoteric – extremely secretive – diplomatic relationship.

Five British staff work at the embassy, stationed in Munsu-dong, a diplomatic compound, home to a handful of expatriates. Their work includes providing English-language training and overseeing “bilateral humanitarian projects”.

Last year pictures emerged of a grinning foreigner on a roller coaster with Kim Jong-un. He was identified as Barnaby Jones, one of the embassy’s junior diplomats, prompting a nervous response from the Foreign Office, which conceded that while “unusual”, the exercise was part of a “number of humanitarian, cultural and education projects which benefit the people of North Korea”.

On Boxing Day 2010 North Korean television screened the film Bend It Like Beckham to mark the decade-long relationship between the two countries.

North Korea keeps its own British outpost at 73 Gunnersbury Avenue, an unglamorous thoroughfare better known to motorists as the North Circular Road. It is near a petrol station and curry house, and its doors, like the borders of North Korea, often remain shut.

Kunal Dutta

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?