MOSCOW – Foreign diplomats stationed in Pyongyang describe the situation there as “normal” despite the North Korean government’s escalating threats against South Korea and the United States.
Of the nearly two dozen embassies in Pyongyang contacted by ABC News, only eleven answered the phone and most of them declined to comment, citing instructions from their governments not to speak with reporters amid heightened diplomatic sensitivities.
“Nobody is going to be risk to be quoted,” one of them said.
But two diplomats agreed to comment on the condition that neither their names nor their countries be identified.
One diplomat described the situation in Pyongyang as “quite normal” and said life, such as it is in the reclusive totalitarian country, goes on as usual.
The other diplomat, from another country, agreed, saying “everywhere is normal. Everyone is going about their business.”
There were no visible changes in the city, he said. Noting that Pyongyang is a three- to four-hour drive from the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, he said “there’s no tension [here].”
The diplomat, who said he had been stationed in Pyongyang for “roughly two years,” was cautious not to dismiss North Korea’s threats as just rhetoric, but said “we are not unduly disturbed.”
“Normally, the people who should be disturbed are foreigners, but even the foreigners are not unduly disturbed,” he said, adding that there has been no new pressure on foreigners in North Korea.
Both diplomats also faulted the international news media for fanning tensions on the Korean peninsula.
The first diplomat blamed the media for quickly broadcasting what he called North Korea’s “empty threats.”
“Any statement published here is being then in one minute published anywhere with harshest words developed every day, every day, every day. So the tension is being raised on purpose on one side and world media, including your question now, is then responding the way they would like to have them responding,” he said in response to an inquiry about the situation in the country.
The second diplomat also said the media was “overblowing” the situation.
That diplomat said his embassy, like other foreign diplomatic missions, had been asked by the North Korean government to indicate by April 10 whether it would like to evacuate the country if hostilities break out or move to a government-designated shelter.
He said he had never visited those facilities and did not know where they are or what they look like.