|North Korea`s intermediate-range missile believed to be the Musudan missile (Yonhap News)|
North Korea on Tuesday called on foreigners living in South Korea to prepare to evacuate amid concerns that the communist country is poised to conduct a missile test as early as Wednesday.
"The situation on the Korean Peninsula is heading for a thermonuclear war,” the North’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said in a statement.
"In the event of war, we don’t want foreigners living in South Korea to get hurt. All foreign organizations, companies and tourists should work out measures for evacuation.”
Seoul officials played down the latest warning as part of its psychological provocations.
"Korean and foreign residents here alike trust the military and the government, and will not unnerved by such a psychological warfare tactic,” presidential spokesperson Kim Haing said.
On Friday, North Korea issued a similar advisory to foreign diplomats based in Pyongyang saying that it will not be able to guarantee their safety as of Wednesday.
Intelligence reports suggest Pyongyang has readied two mid-range missiles on mobile launchers on its east coast and plans test-firing before the April 15 birthday of late founding leader Kim Il-sung.
In response, Japan has deployed Patriot missiles in its capital as it readies to defend the 30 million people who live in greater Tokyo from any North Korean attack, officials said Tuesday.
Two Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air missile launchers had been stationed at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo before dawn, a ministry spokesman said, while Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said “we are proceeding with measures including deployment of PAC-3 as we are on alert.”
Local reports said PAC-3 will be deployed in another two locations in the greater Tokyo area.
Tokyo’s response thus far to the threats emanating from Pyongyang has been low key and Tuesday‘s moves are the most visible yet that it is rattled.
“The government is making the utmost efforts to protect our people’s lives and ensure their safety,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Tuesday morning.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se warned that Pyongyang will face deeper isolation if it carries out more provocations.
"North Korea must understand that there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- to be gained by threats and provocations,” Yun said in his speech at an annual reception hosted by the Asia Foundation.
"North Korea, instead of developing missiles and weapons of mass destruction, must take care of its people first, who are suffering from the hardships of want, poverty and destitution,” Yun said.
Yun will hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Seoul Friday to discuss the growing hostilities from North Korea and other bilateral issues, a Seoul official said Tuesday.
It will be the second bilateral talks between Yun and Kerry this month. They held talks in Washington on April 2 and Kerry reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to protecting South Korea in the face of the North’s increasingly bellicose threats.
"It is very unusual for them to hold talks within 10 days, and I think it demonstrates the two nations’ willingness to build a new, cooperative relationship,” Cho said.
(From news reports)