North Korea vows to push on with strengthening defence

Defying a resolution issued by the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday that condemned Pyongyang for test-firing a missile in December and tightened existing sanctions on the regime, North Korea’s National Defence Commission said the new nuclear test would be part of its action against the “sworn enemy of the Korean people”.

North Korea also vowed to push ahead with launches of more long-range rockets.

Describing the UN Security Council as “a marionette of the US,” North Korean state media claimed the resolutions are “products of its blind pursuance of the hostile policy of the US.

“The UNSC should apologise for its crime of seriously encroaching upon the independence of a sovereign state … and repeal all the unreasonable ‘resolutions’ at once,” KCNA reported.

Pyongyang also declared that no further talks on removing nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula are now possible and that a “nuclear test of a higher level” would be carried out.

Intelligence reports have suggested that the North has been preparing to carry out a new underground nuclear test after global condemnation of the successful launch of a missile on December 12. Pyongyang has claimed that the launch was of a rocket to put a satellite into orbit.

Disagreement within the UN Security Council – primarily a result of China, which holds a veto, insisting that retaliatory measures be watered down – meant that North Korea has had plenty of time to prepare for the inevitable responses.

Reaction to Pyongyang’s declaration was swift, with Glyn Davies, the special representative for North Korean policy in the US government, urging North Korea not to go ahead with the test, saying it would be “a mistake and a missed opportunity.”

The transition team for the incoming South Korean government, due to be sworn in on Friday, has also appealed to Pyongyang not to take any steps that would aggravate tensions in the region, while Japan is to launch a new spy satellite on Sunday with the express task of monitoring missile and nuclear tests in North Korea.

China, North Korea’s sole significant ally, even come down against Pyongyang’s intransigence, with Xi Jinping, the next president, telling a visiting delegation of politicians from South Korea that he opposes the regime developing nuclear arms or any weapons of mass destruction.

Hong Lei, a foreign ministry spokesman added: “All relevant parties should refrain from action that might escalate the situation in the region.”

Beijing’s influence on the new government of Kim Jong-un however appears to be waning.

North Korea separately expressed outrage at reports in the Chinese media that Mr Kim has undergone plastic surgery to make him more closely resemble his much-revered grandfather, the late Kim Il-sung.

Pyongyang’s anger was aroused after the report was aired on a Chinese TV station, with state media describing the claims as a “smear campaign” orchestrated by South Korea “to tarnish the ever-more growing dignity and authority of the supreme headquarters of the DPRK.”