North Korea says it will conduct a third nuclear test and carry out more rocket launches in response to tightened United Nations sanctions.
The official Korean Central News Agency Thursday said the moves are aimed at what it called its "arch enemy," the United States. The story, which quoted a statement by the National Defense Commission, did not give a time frame for the launches or tests.
These threats come a day after the U.N. Security Council unanimously condemned a December rocket launch by North Korea as a violation of existing U.N. sanctions that ban it from developing missile and nuclear technology.
If the new threat is carried out, it would be the third time that North Korea has conducted a nuclear test following U.N. condemnation of long-range rocket launches.
Recent satellite photos suggest North Korea has been preparing for a nuclear test, at the same Punggye-ri site where it conducted its previous tests in 2006 and 2009.
South Korea's defense ministry Thursday said the facility could be ready to conduct a test at any time, if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un decides to do so.
Minutes before the latest threat, the U.S. special envoy on North Korea, Glyn Davies, warned North Korea against carrying out a nuclear test.
"It will be highly provocative. It will set back the course of trying to find a solution to these long-standing problems that have prevented the peninsula from becoming reunited. I think it's very important that they don't test."
Davies, who is on a visit to Seoul, said Washington is willing to hold what he called "credible negotiations" on North Korea's nuclear program.
Most of North Korea's rocket launches and nuclear tests have been viewed as having only limited success, at best. But its December launch was the first time Pyongyang was successful in placing a satellite into orbit, suggesting its technology is improving.
In its statement Thursday, North Korea threatened a so-called "high-level" nuclear test, but did not elaborate. Some believe the statement was a signal it intends to conduct a test with a uranium bomb, rather than the plutonium devices it used previously.
North Korea is believed to have enough plutonium to make several weapons. In 2009, Pyongyang announced it also would begin enriching uranium, giving it a second way to make fuel for nuclear weapons.
Although the North Korean statement said the nuclear tests and rocket launches were "targeted at the United States," analysts say it is not capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. They say it also has not mastered the technology necessary to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.