North Korea vows n-test, threatens US

North Korea on Thursday vowed to launch more long-range rockets and conduct its third nuclear test, saying it would build a capability to strike the United States in the wake of the United Nations Security Council's tightened sanctions against the country.

The North's threat marked the boldest challenge its new, untested leader, Kim Jong-un, has posed at both his country's longtime foe, the United States, and its last remaining major ally, China, and rattled governments in northeast Asia that are undergoing sensitive transitions of power.

In a statement issued through state-run media, the National Defence Commission, the highest governing agency, headed by Kim, said "a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it" will be "targeted" at "the US, the sworn enemy of the Korean people."

The statement, which used the acronym for the North's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, did not clarify when it would conduct such a test, which would be the first since Kim came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in December 2011.

But citing preparations at Punggye test site in northeastern North Korea, Army Col Wi Yong-seob, deputy spokesman of the Defence Ministry of South Korea, said on Thursday, "North Korea can conduct a nuclear test as soon as its leadership makes up its mind."

North Korea had previously hinted at the possibility of conducting a nuclear test, as its Foreign Ministry did on Wednesday when it issued a scathing statement rejecting a unanimous resolution that the Security Council adopted on Tuesday. The resolution tightened sanctions and condemned North Korea's December 12 rocket launching as a violation of earlier resolutions that banned the country from conducting any tests involving ballistic missile technology.

North Korea has since declared that it would shun any talk on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, adding it would not give up its nuclear weapons until "the denuclearization of the world is realized".

North's statement Thursday indicated that Kim, despite recent hints of economic reform and openness in North Korea, was likely to follow the pattern his father, Kim Jong il, had established: a cycle of a rocket launching, UN condemnation and nuclear test.

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