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UK citizens ‘should be advised to leave Korean peninsula’

He said advising UK citizens to leave the peninsula and nearby Japan would send a message to the international community.

The Government should advise British nationals in the Korean peninsula to leave if the tensions over Kim Jong Un’s nuclear programme continue to ratchet up, a former head of the Royal Navy has warned.

Admiral Lord West of Spithead said there was a “real risk” the current stand off between North Korea and the United States could escalate into an actual conflict, resulting in an exchange of nuclear weapons, with “catastrophic” consequences for the region.

He said advising UK citizens to leave the peninsula and nearby Japan would send a message to the international community that they needed to act to prevent a lurch into all out war.

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Admiral Lord West. (Carl Court/PA)

“When you start giving certain advice to your nationals people start taking notice and maybe China and others will say ‘Goodness me, this is really serious’,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House.

“I would set out a certain number of parameters, that if in terms of tension if things change, and say ‘You should now think about getting out and about other people you should think about not going there’.”

The current Foreign Office travel advice for both South and North Korea notes that tensions “remain high” following the North’s latest nuclear and missile tests but does not advise Britons to leave.

Lord West, however, said he feared chances of a conflict breaking out in the region were now higher than at any time since the end of the Korean War in 1952.

“It is extremely worrying. I think that there is a real risk – by miscalculation, probably, more than anything else – of something happening that no one intends,” he said.

“The results would be catastrophic. It would be hundreds of thousands if not millions, dying and, yes, we would be pulled into finally.

“I don’t think our nation would be liable to a nuclear attack. I think any nuclear weapons would be limited to two or three, but that is enough to cause absolute untold damage because nuclear weapons should not be warfighting weapons. They are there, I believe, to make war unthinkable.”

The latest rise in tensions follow the disclosure that US intelligence analysts had concluded the North Koreans had developed a nuclear warhead small enough to be fitted on a ballistic missile that could be used to attack the US mainland.

It prompted President Donald Trump to issue a series of strident warnings that the US would rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if it continued its threats.

Pyongyang responded by announcing plans to test fire a series of missiles into the waters around the US Pacific island territory of Guam where American strategic bombers are based.

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