SEOUL • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country would soon conduct a nuclear warhead test and a test launch of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, the North's official KCNA news agency reported.
Such tests would be in defiant violation of United Nations sanctions that were recently strengthened with the backing of China, North Korea's chief ally.
Mr Kim made the comments as he supervised a successful simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile that measured the "thermodynamic structural stability of newly developed heat-resisting materials", KCNA said yesterday.
"Declaring that a nuclear warhead explosion test and a test-fire of several kinds of ballistic rockets able to carry nuclear warheads will be conducted in a short time to further enhance the reliance of nuclear attack capability, he (Mr Kim) instructed the relevant section to make prearrangement for them to the last detail," the agency said.
The North's report comes amid heightened tension on the Korean peninsula as South Korean and United States troops stage annual military exercises that Seoul has described as the largest.
The North has issued belligerent statements almost daily since coming under a new UN resolution adopted this month to tighten sanctions against it after a nuclear test in January and the launch of a long-range rocket last month.
In 1962, the United States launched a ballistic missile with a live warhead in what was known as the Frigate Bird test. China conducted a similar test in 1966.
"What would be terrible is if the DPRK (North Korea) re-enacted Operation Frigate Bird or the fourth Chinese nuclear test and did a two-in-one," said Mr Jeffrey Lewis of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies. "For now, though, it looks like a nuclear test and several missile tests in close succession," he said.
Hours after the North's announcement, South Korea's defence ministry said it does not believe North Korea has acquired missile re-entry technology. "What North Korea announced today was North Korea's one-sided claim," ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said.
The foreign ministers of South Korea and China discussed the new sanctions against North Korea by telephone late on Monday and agreed it was important to implement them "in a complete and comprehensive manner", China said yesterday.