Nato head to carry out 'long-planned' visit to South Korea

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Nato head Anders Fogh Rasmussen will visit South Korea later this week, the military alliance said on Tuesday, stressing the trip was long-planned and not connected with North Korean threats of nuclear war.

Mr Rasmussen will meet newly-elected President Park Geun Hye, Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se and Defence Minister Kim Kwan Jin on Thursday and Friday, a brief statement said.

Asked if the trip was linked to rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, a Nato official said the trip "had been planned for some time". Rather than the current crisis, it would instead cover Afghanistan where non-member South Korea has contributed some 350 troops to Nato-led forces fighting the Taleban, and cooperation in general between the two sides, the official said.

In the latest of a long series of bellicose statements, North Korea warned on Tuesday that the Korean peninsula faced "thermo-nuclear" war and advised foreigners in South Korea to consider leaving.

North Korea has steadily ramped up its war rhetoric in recent months, claiming that the United States planned to attack it and that it was ready to use nuclear weapons against its long-standing foe.

Mr Rasmussen will meet the press in South Korea late on Thursday and then travel to Japan April 13-16, the Nato statement added.