North Korea has threatened the United States with a third nuclear test and further rocket launches. The threat comes after the UN Security Council expanded sanctions against the communist nation earlier in the week.
North Korea's highest military body announced on Thursday that it had plans to carry out a third nuclear test and condemned expanded UN sanctions against Pyongyang as "illegal."
"We do not hide the fact that various satellites, long-range missiles that we will continue to launch and a high-level nuclear test we will conduct, will target our sworn enemy, the United States," the National Defense Commission said in a release carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
On Tuesday, the 15-member United Nations Security Council had expanded sanctions against North Korea, in response to an illegal long-range rocket launch by Pyongyang in December. Even China, North Korea's only ally, voted for that resolution.
"We absolutely refute all the illegal and outlawed resolutions adopted by the Security Council," said North Korea's defense commission.
North Korea gave no time-frame as to when a nuclear test might occur. The isolated communist nation tested nuclear weapons in 2006 and 2009.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing a South Korean intelligence source, has reported that Pyongyang is technically ready for a third test, which could occur within days of a decision by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
Call for 'calm and restraint'
The United States' top North Korea envoy has said the decision lies in North Korea's hands, but warned Pyongyang against escalating tensions.
"We hope they don't do it. We call on them not to do it," said Glyn Davies in the South Korean capital of Seoul after Pyongyang released its statement. "This is not a moment to increase tensions on the Korean peninsula."
China has called for renewed efforts to resolve the frozen conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
"The DPRK's (North Korea's) satellite launch as well as speculation of a nuclear test highlight the urgency and importance of settling relevant issues on the Korean peninsula," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.
"We hope all parties will bear in mind peace and stability of the Korean peninsula, exercise calmness and restraint and avoid actions that might escalate tension."
slk/jm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)