SEOUL - Staff at embassies in North Korea appeared to be remaining in place on Saturday despite an appeal by authorities in Pyongyang for diplomats to consider leaving because of heightened tension after weeks of bellicose exchanges.

North Korean authorities told diplomatic missions they could not guarantee their safety from next Wednesday - after declaring that conflict was inevitable amid joint US-South Korean military exercises due to last until the end of the month.

Whatever the atmosphere in Pyongyang, the rain-soaked South Korean capital, Seoul, was calm. Traffic moved normally through the city center, busy with Saturday shoppers.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a government official as saying diplomats were disregarding the suggestion they might leave the country.

"We don't believe there's any foreign mission about to leave Pyongyang," the unidentified official was quoted as saying. "Most foreign governments view the North Korean message as a way of ratcheting up tension on the Korean peninsula."

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