North Korea's top governing body warned that the regime will conduct its third nuclear test in defiance of U.N. punishment, and made clear that its long-range rockets are designed to carry not only satellites but also warheads aimed at striking the U.S.
The National Defense Commission, headed by the country's young leader, Kim Jong Un, rejected the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning North Korea's long-range rocket launch in December as a banned missile activity and expanding sanctions against the regime. The commission reaffirmed in its declaration that the launch was a peaceful bid to send a satellite into space, but also said the country's rocket launches have a military purpose: to strike and attack the U.S.
The commission pledged to keep launching satellites and rockets and to conduct a nuclear test as part of a "new phase" of combat with the U.S., which it blames for leading the U.N. bid to punish Pyongyang. It said a nuclear test was part of "upcoming" action but did not say exactly when or where it would take place.
"We do not hide that 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 in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people," the commission said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words, as it regards jungle law as the rule of its survival," the commission said.
It was a rare declaration by the powerful military commission once led by late leader Kim Jong Il and now commanded by his son, Kim Jong Un. The statement made clear Kim's commitment to continue developing the country's nuclear and missile programs in defiance of the Security Council, even at risk of further international isolation.
North Korea's allusion to a "higher level" nuclear test most likely refers to a device made from highly enriched uranium, which is easier to miniaturize than the plutonium bombs it tested in 2006 and 2009, said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea. Experts say the North Koreans must conduct further tests of its atomic devices and master the technique for making them smaller before they can be mounted as nuclear warheads onto long-range missiles.
The U.S. State Department had no immediate response to today's statement. On Wednesday, after Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry issued its own angry response to the Security Council decision and said the North would bolster its "nuclear deterrence," U.S. envoy to North Korea, Glyn Davies, urged restraint.
"It is important that they heed the voice of the international community," Davies said in South Korea. He was meeting with South Korean officials on a trip that also will take him to China and Japan to discuss how to move forward on North Korea relations.
Davies said that if North Korea begins "to take concrete steps to indicate their interest in returning to diplomacy, they may find in their negotiating partners willing partners in that process."
North Korea claims the right to build nuclear weapons as a defense against the U.S., its Korean War foe.