March 9, 2020 / 5:18 AM / in a month

Germany, France close North Korea missions amid coronavirus concern

SEOUL, March 9 (Reuters) - Germany and France withdrew their representatives from North Korea and closed their missions on Monday, the British ambassador there said, amid growing concern in the isolated country about the spread of the coronavirus.

North Korea has not confirmed any cases of the coronavirus but it has made foreigners from any country that has reported a case spend 30 days in quarantine. It has also reinforced border checks.

North Korea is sandwiched between China, where the virus emerged late last year and has infected more than 80,000 people, and South Korea, where the virus has spread readily over the past few weeks to infect nearly 7,500 people.

Britain’s ambassador to North Korea, Colin Crooks, did not say why his German and French colleagues were leaving North Korea, nor did he mention the coronavirus.

“Sad to say farewell this morning to colleagues from German Embassy and French Office in North Korea which are closing temporarily,” Crooks said on Twitter.

“British Embassy remains open”.

Crooks shared photos showing white vans, apparently taking his French and German colleagues to the airport.

Germany has an embassy in North Korea. France does not have formal diplomatic relations with North Korea but runs an office there to foster exchanges.

Spokesmen at the French and German embassies in neighbouring South Korea were not immediately available for comment.

CNN has reported a plan was under way to evacuate some 60 foreign diplomats from North Korea, including those from Germany, French and Switzerland.

Sweden’s ambassador to North Korea, Joachim Bergstrom, last week posted a picture on Twitter of himself in Pyongyang, and said he was happy to be out of the compound where he was quarantined for a month.

Reporting by Sangmi Cha Writing by Hyonhee Shin Editing by Robert Birsel

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