TODAY   |  April 06, 2013

Kerry to visit Korean peninsula as tensions escalate

Secretary of State John Kerry will visit the Korean peninsula next week in an attempt to diffuse the crisis brewing on the Korean peninsula. People in South Korea say the focus should be on China, which could potentially assist in containing potential danger. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>>> we'll start with the rising tensions with north korea . our chief foreign correspondent richard engel is monitoring it all from seoul, south korea . richard, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, lester. the assumption here in south korea is that the north will carry out some sort of launch. and since this is seen primarily as a show of force, timing is critical. another sign of rising tensions this morning. south korean workers leaving an industrial park in north korea . it had been a last faction of cooperation between the two nations. north korea has moved missiles to the ready, believed to be incapable of carrying nuclear war heads or reaching the united states , but pyongyang could fire them anywhere, perhaps toward japan or guam, where the u.s. has troops. why be so aggressive? analysts say it comes from decades of north korea being a pariah with economic growth.

>> they have to exaggerate their strength constantly.

>> reporter: to earn the young leader respect. speculation as pyongyang could test fire the missiles in mid april. april 11th is the one-year anniversary of kim jong un's rise to power . last year, pyongyang tried to launch a crude satellite around this time but crashed into the sea after 90 seconds. if fired, this one could do the same. evacuation plans ready, saying it can't guarantee their safety after april 10th . secretary kerry comes to this area on a mission to reduce tensions. they say he should focus on china. china has traditionally used north korea as a buffer. pyongyang may be --

>> what they're worried with about is united states military forces itself, through its ally allies in asia, right up against its borders.

>> reporter: but now it's not working. instead of keeping american troops away, north korea is drawing them in. china is key to resolving this. some diplomats say since north korea has gone so far this time, china may be more willing than it has been in the past to take action to try to contain or at least calm down the north korean 's rhetoric and action.

>> richard engel in seoul for us this morning. richard, thanks.