N. Korea urges foreigners in South to evacuate

SEOUL - North Korea said Tuesday the Korean peninsula was headed for "thermo-nuclear" war and advised foreigners in South Korea to consider evacuation, in the latest in a series of apocalyptic threats.

The warning followed a similar evacuation advisory the North gave Friday to foreign embassies in its capital Pyongyang, saying it could not ensure the safety of their personnel if a conflict broke out.

"The situation on the Korean Peninsula is inching close to a thermonuclear war," the North's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

Saying it did not want to see foreigners in South Korea "fall victim", the statement requested all foreign institutions, enterprises and tourists "to take measures for shelter and evacuation in advance for their safety".

The "thermo-nuclear war" threat has been wielded several times in recent months - most recently on March 7 - despite expert opinion that North Korea is nowhere near developing such an advanced nuclear device.

Last week's warning to embassies was also largely dismissed as anxiety-stirring rhetoric, with most governments involved making it clear they had no plans to withdraw personnel from their Pyongyang missions.

Tuesday's statement said the risk of nuclear conflict was being heightened daily by the "warmongering US" and its South Korean "puppets" who were intent on invading the North.

The Korean peninsula has been locked in a cycle of escalating military tensions since the North's third nuclear test in February, which drew toughened UN sanctions.

Pyongyang's bellicose rhetoric has reached fever pitch in recent weeks, with near-daily threats of attacks on US military bases and South Korea in response to ongoing South Korea-US military exercises.

Earlier Tuesday, North Korean workers followed Pyongyang's order to boycott the Kaesong joint industrial zone with South Korea, signalling the possible demise of the sole surviving symbol of cross-border reconciliation.

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