State Department to Americans: No need to leave South Korea
North Korea has warned Americans to leave South Korea in order to avoid a looming "thermonuclear war," but the State Department said Tuesday it sees no reason for Americans abroad to heed Pyongyang’s warning. In a special bulletin on a state-run television channel subsequently reported by North Korea’s KCNA news agency, the regime in Pyongyang ...
North Korea has warned Americans to leave South Korea in order to avoid a looming "thermonuclear war," but the State Department said Tuesday it sees no reason for Americans abroad to heed Pyongyang’s warning.
In a special bulletin on a state-run television channel subsequently reported by North Korea’s KCNA news agency, the regime in Pyongyang said there will be "an all-out war, a merciless, sacred, retaliatory war to be waged by [North Korea]."
"[The North Korean government] does not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim to the war," KCNA reported the bulletin as saying, adding that the government "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."
The warning follows North Korea’s previous warning to foreign diplomats in Pyongyang, urging them to evacuate their diplomatic posts out of concern for their own safety.
The State Department last updated its official travel advisory for South Korea on April 4, before the latest warning from Pyongyang.
"The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in the Republic of Korea (ROK)," the April 4 advisory said. "The Embassy has not changed its security posture and we have not recommended that U.S. citizens who reside in, or plan to visit, the Republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time."
At Tuesday’s State Department press briefing, reporters asked Spokesman Patrick Ventrell whether Pyongyang’s latest threat to Americans in South Korea would lead to any change in the State Department’s advice to American citizens there. Ventrell said it would not.
"We have not recommended that U.S. citizens who reside in or plan to visit the Republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time," Ventrell said.
Reporters pressed Ventrell to acknowledge that the U.S. government thinks North Korea is just bluffing and has no intention of attacking the South.
"So the fact that a nuclear-armed country has told foreigners to get out of South Korea because of a coming war, you don’t regard as a specific threat?" asked AP reporter Matt Lee. "In another circumstance if a country warned Americans or any other foreigners to get out, you might think that that was an actual threat. No?"
Ventrell said that North Korea has a pattern of making such provocative statements and he insisted the U.S. government was taking Pyongyang’s statements seriously, but said that at the same time, Americans should feel free to travel to South Korea as they please.
"Our analysis remains the same as it was last week: that we’re not discouraging U.S. citizens from traveling to South Korea or encouraging them to take any special travel precautions," he said.
"And you don’t think that that might be irresponsible in light of the situation?" Lee pressed.
"Well, if we thought otherwise, we’d have a different recommendation, but that’s our recommendation," Ventrell responded. "Look, we’re clear-eyed about the threat."
"Right, you just don’t buy it," Lee shot back.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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