EU plays down Korea tensions that U.N. calls "very dangerous"

ROME/BRUSSELS Tue Apr 9, 2013 7:56am EDT

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at a news conference at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at a news conference at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague April 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Michael Kooren

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ROME/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union believes there is a "limited risk" of war in Korea, an EU official said, as the United Nations' head called the situation there "very dangerous".

"We recognize the situation as being tense and potentially volatile. But our assessment is that there is a limited risk ... of an armed conflict," the EU official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We haven't seen conspicuous preparations in the North for an attack, and the situation on the ground in Pyongyang looks calm," the official said, but added that there was a risk of miscalculation or escalation that was "not negligible".

The EU will quickly adopt new sanctions on North Korea passed by the U.N. Security Council last month in response to Pyongyang's third nuclear test, the official said.

After North Korea warned foreigners on Tuesday to evacuate South Korea to avoid being dragged into a "merciless, sacred, retaliatory war," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed grave concern about the situation.

"The current level of tension is very dangerous. A small incident caused by miscalculation or misjudgment may create an uncontrollable situation," Ban told reporters in Rome.

He said he had urged North Korea to refrain from "provocative rhetoric" and asked neighboring countries to try to exert their influence on Pyongyang.

(Reporting by Catherine Hornby and Adrian Croft; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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