Britain closes North Korean embassy amid coronavirus restrictions

27 May 2020, 18:36

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Britain has closed its embassy in North Korea and ordered its diplomats to leave the country in a response to the regime's coronavirus restrictions.

The Foreign Office said the decision came after "restrictions on entry to the country have made it impossible to rotate our staff and sustain the operation of the Embassy."

The move follows a similar evacuation in March by Germany and France of their adjacent embassies in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un maintains that the country has not recorded a single case of Covid-19, but analysts doubt this given its proximity to China.

The NK News website reported on Wednesday that the UK diplomats left the DPRK by its border with China, with flights still grounded.

Hundreds of foreign tourists and aid workers remain in North Korea but the Foreign Office said no British citizens are known to be there currently.

The country has effectively placed its citizens under house-arrest amid the pandemic and closed its borders, which saw North Korea reportedly reject a UK Government request for a rescue flight to land in February.

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A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The UK has temporarily closed its embassy in Pyongyang and our staff have departed the country.

"This decision has been made because the DPRK restrictions on entry to the country have made it impossible to rotate our staff and sustain the operation of the Embassy.

“We maintain diplomatic relations with the DPRK and will seek to re-establish our presence in Pyongyang as soon as we are able to return to smooth Embassy operations. Colin Crooks remains our Ambassador to the DPRK.”

The UK Government has advised against all but essential travel to North Korea since August 2017 amid a growing clampdown on liberty in the country.