No need to withdraw diplomats from N.Korea: Britain

LONDON (AFP) - British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Sunday that he saw no immediate need to withdraw his country's diplomats from North Korea, despite a warning from Pyongyang that it could not guarantee their safety if conflict broke out.

"I haven't seen any immediate need to respond to that by moving our diplomats out of there," he told the BBC.

Mr Hague said North Korea is showing no signs of gearing up for "all-out conflict" by repositioning its armed forces, despite tensions on the Korean peninsula.

"We haven't seen the repositioning of forces or the redeployment of ground forces that one might see in a period prior to a military assault or to an all-out conflict. That's why I say it's important to keep calm as well as to be firm and united about this," he added.

Mr Hague also said, however, that Britain would "keep this under close review with our allies and international partners".

A further meeting of EU ambassadors is due to take place on Monday in Brussels.

Mr Hague said that while there was always a "danger" from a nuclear-armed North Korea, the real risk was letting the war of words turn into a real conflict.

He said there was a "danger of miscalculation by the North Korean regime which has worked itself up into this frenetic state of rhetoric in recent weeks and the danger that they would believe their own paranoid rhetoric."

"But it's also important to stress that the international response to this, including our response, must be clear, united and calm," he added.

"We should be united in working with the US, China and other countries on the UN Security Council on this issue and we should be calm in not responding rhetorically to every rhetorical flourish and announcement from the North Korean regime."

North Korea had a "strategic choice to make between increased isolation or better relations with the rest of the world - at the moment they're making the wrong choice".

The British foreign minister would not, however, be drawn when asked if he thought North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was "nuts".

"I don't know the man myself," he said. "It's not easy, although we have an embassy there, to get face-to-face discussions with North Korean leaders, so I'm not going to speculate about the psychology of the leader of North Korea," he added.

But he said that authoritarian regimes, "perfectly rationally from the point of view of their own survival", would try to play up external threats.