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(2nd LD) N. Korea calls on foreigners living in S. Korea to devise evacuation plans
SEOUL, April 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Tuesday called on foreigners living in South Korea to devise evacuation plans, further escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

   North Korea's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (KAPPC) said in a statement monitored in Seoul that foreign nationals should find out in advance where they can take shelter as well as examine evacuation plans to leave the country.

   The committee, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party that oversees inter-Korean affairs, said the North does not want to see foreigners in the South hurt in the case of war.

   "The committee informs all foreign institutions and enterprises and foreigners including tourists in Seoul and all other parts of South Korea that they are requested to take measures for shelter and evacuation in advance for their safety," the KAPPC's English dispatch said. There are some 1.4 million foreigners in South Korea.

   "The United States and the South Korean puppet warmongers are now watching for a chance to start war against the DPRK after massively introducing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear war hardware into south Korea," it said.

   DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

   The statement, read by the organization's spokesman, warned that if conflict breaks out, the North will conduct an all out "merciless sacred retaliatory war". The official added the Korean Peninsula is on the brink of a thermonuclear war and current developments can pose grave challenges for the whole of the Asia-Pacific region.

   The remarks come as the communist country has repeatedly said it will turn Seoul and Washington into a "sea of fire" and launch pre-emptive nuclear attacks against its enemies.

   North Korea observers in Seoul said the latest rhetoric is part of an ongoing effort by the North to ratchet up tensions on the peninsula.

   "Fueling tension has been a trademark tactic employed for decades by the North to deal with outside pressure against its bad behavior and win concessions," said a government official, who declined to be identified. Pyongyang has come under international criticism for conducting its third nuclear test on Feb. 12 and launching a long range rocket last December.

   Others observers in Seoul speculated that pushing up tensions may have been timed with the launch of the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile. There has been growing conjecture that the missile, carried on a mobile transporter, will be launched Wednesday. The missile has a range of 3,000-4,000 kilometers and could be programmed to target U.S. bases in Guam.

   Besides threatening to attack its enemies with nuclear weapons, Pyongyang nullified the Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War (1950-53), saying it will no longer honor non-aggression pacts signed with South Korea and more recently said it would pull its workers out of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

   The complex, located in North Korea, is the only remaining economic link between the two countries, and its closure could act as a destabilizing force.