A top South Korean national security official said Sunday that North Korea may be preparing a missile test or another provocative act this week by warning it soon will be unable to guarantee diplomats' safety in Pyongyang.
Kim Jang-Soo - chief national security adviser to President Park Geun-Hye said a test-launch or other provocation could come before or after Wednesday, the date by which the North has suggested diplomats leave the capital, Pyongyang.
He said the North's real objective is to force diplomatic concessions from Washington and Seoul, but added that South Korea is maintaining its military readiness "whether or not [Pyongyang's threats] are merely rhetoric."
Also Sunday, South Korea's top military officer postponed a meeting in Washington with the U.S. chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, because of the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula.
U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey was to meet April 16 with his Seoul counterpart, General Jung Seung-jo. But a spokesman for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Seoul was concerned Pyongyang might stage a military provocation while General Jung was away.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a speech on the southern island of Hainan Sunday, did not name North Korea but said no country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain."
China’s foreign ministry also issued a statement saying it was "seriously concerned" about the "continuously escalating tensions." Beijing is North Korea's sole financial and diplomatic backer.
White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer said Sunday the Obama administration is not giving in to North Korean pressure by delaying a scheduled missile launch.
US missile test delayed
The Pentagon postponed an intercontinental ballistic missile test from a U.S. Air Force base in California in order to not "exacerbate" military tensions with North Korea.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided to push back the long-planned "Minuteman 3" missile test until next month out of concern the launch could create misunderstanding with Pyongyang and heighten the current crisis.
North Korea, angered by a new round of international sanctions following a recent nuclear test, has threatened to retaliate with attacks on the United States, South Korea and U.S. allies in the Asia Pacific region. The North Korean military command announced in the past week it was "authorized" to attack the United States using "smaller, lighter and diversified" nuclear weapons.
The U.S. missile test postponement follows reports from South Korea that Pyongyang had moved two medium-range missiles to its east coast.
White House officials said Friday Washington would not be surprised if North Korea staged a missile test similar to one late last year that brought a new round of international condemnation and economic sanctions.
Western analysts do not believe North Korea has the technical capabilities required to mount a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile, and do not believe any North Korean missiles could reach U.S. territory.
North Korea told foreign embassies and international organizations recently that it could only guarantee their safety until April 10, in the event of open hostilities.
But foreign diplomats stationed in Pyongyang appear to be staying at their embassies, despite the government's public suggestion they leave for their own safety. Russia and Britain said Friday they had no plans to evacuate embassy staff.
North Korea will mark the 101st birthday of its founding father, Kim Il Sung, on April 15 with pomp, ceremony and displays of military strength. Kim Il Sung led the communist country from 1948 until his death in 1994. His grandson, Kim Jong Un, currently holds power.