SEOUL: North Korea has threatened to conduct a nuclear weapons test ''targeted'' at the US after the Obama administration pushed through new United Nations sanctions against the country in response to last month's rocket launch.
''In a new phase of the anti-US struggle, we do not hide that the various satellite and long-range rockets that we will continue to launch, and the high-level nuclear test that we will conduct, are targeted at the US, the sworn enemy of our people,'' North Korea's National Defence Commission said, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
The UN Security Council imposed more restrictions on North Korea on Tuesday, prompting a vow from the regime to expand its nuclear capability. Its leader, Kim Jong-un, has worked to bolster his legitimacy since inheriting his position from his late father in December 2011 by continuing a military-first policy while seeking to revive an impoverished economy.
''North Korea has unfortunately resorted to their classic play of brinkmanship,'' said Huh Moon-young, director of the Centre for North Korean Studies at the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. ''In this totalitarian regime, the dictatorship is maintained not through winning the hearts of the impoverished public with money, but with consolidation through a show of military might.''
Minutes before the declaration, the US envoy on North Korea, Glyn Davies, called on Mr Kim not to detonate an atomic device, saying in Seoul that the US President, Barack Obama, was willing to hold ''credible negotiations''.
South Korean officials have warned the North is prepared to conduct a nuclear weapons test ''soon'', following the December rocket launch. The military thinks a nuclear test from the North is possible ''at any time,'' a Defence Ministry spokesman, Wi Yong-seob, said on Thursday.
The North Korean defence commission's statement condemned the UN Security Council action, which was approved by China, the country's biggest ally. The sanctions build on a series of asset freezes while targeting the smuggling of sensitive items and updating a list of North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile technology prohibited for transfer into or out of the country.
''We will launch an all-out action to foil the hostile policy towards [North Korea] being pursued by the US and those dishonest forces following the US,'' the statement said. The Security Council resolution is ''the most dangerous phase of the hostile policy towards [North Korea]''.