The British Council hopes to continue its English language teacher training programme in North Korea amid heightened tensions between the West and Pyongyang, the charity told IBTimes UK on Tuesday 11 July.

The scheme, which is now in its seventeenth year, covers 10 government-run universities and schools. The students typically go on to become interpreters, academics or diplomats for the secretive state.

"We seek to stay in countries through difficult times, as we have done in the past. For example the Eastern bloc before the fall of the Berlin wall," a British Council spokesperson said.

"We regularly review the situation in DPRK (the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea) with international partners and will continue to do so in light of developments."

The charity, whose nearest office is in China's capital of Beijing, signed a memorandum of understanding with North Korea for a cultural and educational exchange in 2014.

The agreement was designed to "pave the way" for exchange visits, study tours, courses, collaboration to produce teaching materials and sporting events between the UK and North Korea.

But relations between the West and Kim Jong-un's regime have strained over the last year, with North Korea continuing its nuclear-programme and testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on 3 July.

The Hwasong-14 is expected to have a range up to 8,000km (4,970 miles), based on an analysis of trajectory after a lofted launch.

However, Dr John Schilling, a researcher at the Univeristy of John Hopkins' 38 North centre, has warned that a fully developed version of the missile could reach up to 9,700 km, putting it in striking distance of a US naval base in San Diego, California.

US President Donald Trump has vowed to confront North Korea "very strongly" over the test and has warned of "severe things" for Jong-un.

The comments come just weeks after Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old student, was returned to America from North Korea in a coma.

Warmbier, who later died from his injuries, was imprisoned by the regime for 17 months after allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster. His family blamed the "awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans."

The UK Foreign Office states that very few British nationals visit North Korea and those that do are usually part of an organised tour.

"You should follow the advice of your tour group and the local authorities when in North Korea. Failure to do so could put your personal safety at risk and lead to a severe punishment from the local authorities," the department's travel advice adds.

"Offences that would be considered trivial in other countries can incur very severe penalties in North Korea, particularly actions the authorities deem to be disrespectful towards the North Korean leadership or government."