U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says there is still hope that North Korea can be dissuaded from taking such a provocative step as conducting another nuclear test.
Speaking at a globally televised forum Tuesday, Clinton urged the international community to work closely together on changing the communist nation's behavior. She said that when North Korea's young leader Kim Jong Un came to power a year ago, the United States hoped he would allow more openness in his country and make efforts to improve the lives of his citizens.
North Korea issued new threats against the South and its allies on Tuesday, saying it views a recent expansion of United Nations Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang as an act of war.
In a commentary filled with typically inflammatory language, the official Korean Central News Agency promised "merciless retaliatory blows" and a "grand and just war for national reunification" in response to the sanctions.
Last week, North Korea threatened to carry out another nuclear test, following the unanimous decision the U.N. Security Council made to punish Pyongyang for a December rocket launch. Pyongyang said the launch placed a satellite into orbit for peaceful purposes, but it is generally believed that the launch was a ballistic missile test.
Meanwhile, South Korea is poised for its third bid to send a satellite into orbit Wednesday. The pressure on Seoul's mission has risen considerably in the wake of North Korea's successful launch in December.
South Korea's foreign ministry on Tuesday again denounced the nuclear test threat. It urged its communist neighbor to "pay heed to the continued warnings from the international community and not push ahead with any further provocations."
Seoul on Tuesday announced the creation of a special task force to monitor North Korea's nuclear test site. Recent satellite photos suggest increased activity at the site. South Korean officials have said they believe a test could be carried out at any time.
North Korea also conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 following U.N. condemnations of earlier long-range rocket launches. It is barred from conducting nuclear or ballistic missile tests under international sanctions.