North Korea signals 'all-out, high-intensity' action

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea's ruling communist party has called for the staging of a "high-intensity" action and further long-range rocket launches, state media said on Tuesday, ahead of an expected nuclear test.

A meeting of the workers party politburo "called for staging an all-out action of high intensity," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Tuesday, without specifically mentioning a nuclear test.

The politburo also "stressed the need to continue launching satellites ... and powerful long-range rockets," KCNA said.

The statement carried strong echoes of the initial announcement last month by the North's top military body, the National Defence Commission, that it would conduct a "high-level nuclear test" and further rocket launches.

Since then, the international community has issued repeated appeals and warnings to Pyongyang against testing, while analysing satellite images of the North's nuclear test site for any signs of an imminent detonation.

On Monday, South Korea's Yonhap News agency said no activity had been picked up at the test site for several days, suggesting manpower may have been withdrawn ahead of a test.

But some officials noted that the inactivity might just be linked to the Lunar New Year holiday which fell at the weekend.

There has been widespread speculation in the South that the North wants to conduct the test ahead of late leader Kim Jong-il's birthday on February 16.

Pyongyang has said any test would be a direct response to the UN Security Council's adoption of a US-proposed resolution that condemned the North's rocket launch in December and expanded existing sanctions.

North Korea insists the rocket launch was a scientific mission aimed at putting a satellite into an orbit.

But the United States and many other countries viewed it as a disguised ballistic missile test, banned under UN resolutions triggered by Pyongyang's previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Confusion over the possible date of a third nuclear test was compounded by a North Korean state media outlet last week that said the United States and South Korea had "jumped to conclusions" that a test was imminent.

The politburo meeting stressed the need for the Korean People's Army (KPA) to remain combat ready at all times and prepare for an attack on the South and the US troops stationed there.

"It said that once an order is issued, the KPA should blow up the stronghold of aggression at a strike and wipe out the brigandish US imperialists and South Korean puppet army to the last man," KCNA said.

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