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UN humanitarian staff to remain in North Korea

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The United Nations has no plans to evacuate staff from North Korea but is studying warnings from Pyongyang amid escalating nuclear tensions, a UN spokesman said Friday.

"UN staff in the DPRK remain engaged in their humanitarian and developmental work throughout the country," spokesman Martin Nesirky said, referring to the North by its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was mulling a response after Pyongyang issued an advisory concerning the safety of foreign diplomats and a UN representative at a meeting in the North Korean capital on Friday.

Nesirky said Ban was "studying the message" from the meeting and added that the UN would "respond appropriately," without elaborating.

The United Nations has 36 international staff and 21 local employees in North Korea, as well as members of their families.

Seven agencies or UN programs operate in North Korea, principally the World Food Program.

Nesirky reiterated the UN's calls for calm on the Korean peninsula following increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the isolated country's leadership.

"There is a general need for things to calm down, for the volume to be turned down but it is really incumbent on the DPRK authorities to reduce the tension," Nesirky said.

North Korean officials have "made a number of statements that the Secretary General says are alarming... there needs to be calm and dialogue and the Secretary General hopes it will be the case."

Ban also renewed calls for the international community to help tackle North Korea's humanitarian problems, Nesirky said.

"There is a hugely difficult humanitarian situation in the DPRK," and the United Nations "is providing very important lifesaving assistance" to its people "and particularly the children," Nesirky said.

Ban "is appealing again to the international community for humanitarian assistance. There has not been such a big response in recent months to this appeal and certainly we would appeal again for assistance."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130405/un-humanitarian-staff-remain-north-korea