PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - Despite sanctions from the United Nations, North Korea has warned they are preparing to launch more long range missiles and will test more nuclear explosives.
North Korea's National Defense Commission threatened to wage, quote, "a full-fledged confrontation," against the U-S.
On Tuesday, the U.N. condemned North Korea's launch of a long-range missile in December, and sanctioned them. The North Korean government maintains the missile was peaceful, but the U.S. and other countries claim it was a test for nuclear missiles.
North Korea said on Thursday it would carry out further rocket launches and a nuclear test that would target the United States, dramatically stepping up its threats against a country it called its "sworn enemy".
North Korea is believed by South Korea and other observers to be "technically ready" for a third nuclear test, and the decision to go ahead rests with leader Kim Jong-un who pressed ahead with the December rocket launch in defiance of the U.N. sanctions.
China, the one major diplomatic ally of the isolated and impoverished North, agreed to the U.S.-backed resolution and it also supported resolutions in 2006 and 2009 after Pyongyang's two earlier nuclear tests.
Thursday's statement by North Korea represents a huge challenge to Beijing as it undergoes a leadership transition with Xi Jinping due to take office in March.
North Korea has rejected proposals to restart the so-called six-party talks aimed at reining in its nuclear capacity.
Analysts said the North could test as early as February as South Korea prepares to install a new, untested President or that it could choose to stage a nuclear explosion to coincide with former ruler Kim Jong-il's February 16th birthday.
Washington urged North Korea not to proceed with a third test just as the North's statement was published on Thursday.
"Whether North Korea tests or not is up to North Korea," Glyn Davies, the top U.S. envoy for North Korean diplomacy, said in the South Korean capital of Seoul.
"We hope they don't do it. We call on them not to do it," Davies said after a meeting with South Korean officials. "This is not a moment to increase tensions on the Korean peninsula."
The North was banned from developing missile and nuclear technology under sanctions dating from its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
A South Korean military official said the concern now is that Pyongyang could undertake a third nuclear test using highly enriched uranium for the first time, opening a second path to a bomb.
North Korea is estimated to have enough fissile material for about a dozen plutonium warheads, although estimates vary, and intelligence reports suggest that it has been enriching uranium to supplement that stock and give it a second path to the bomb.
North Korea gave no time-frame for the coming test and often employs harsh rhetoric in response to U.N. and U.S. actions that it sees as hostile.
Its long-range rockets are not seen as capable of reaching the United States mainland and it is not believed to have the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.
The bellicose statement on Thursday appeared to dent any remaining hopes that Kim Jong-un, believed to be 30 years old, would pursue a different path from his father Kim Jong-il, who oversaw the country's military and nuclear programs.
Saturday, May 25 2013 2:16 AM EDT2013-05-25 06:16:27 GMT
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