SEOUL, FEBRUARY 4, 2013 (PHILSTAR) AP - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (photo)issued "important" guidelines on how to bolster the army and protect the nation's sovereignty at a high-level ruling Workers' Party meeting, state media said yesterday, an indication that Pyongyang may be ready to conduct an atomic test anytime.

North Korea said last month that it would conduct its third nuclear test to protest international sanctions toughened over its long-range rocket launch in December. The US, South Korea and other countries have urged the North to scrap its nuclear test plans or face grave consequences.

North Korea says US hostility and the threat of American troops in South Korea are important reasons behind its nuclear drive. The country also says it has the sovereign right to launch rockets to send satellites into orbit under a space development program; the US says the December launch was a disguised test of banned missile technology.

Pyongyang's two previous nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009, both occurred after it was slapped with increased sanctions for similar long-range rocket launches.

Recent satellite photos showed North Korea may have been sealing the tunnel into a mountainside where a nuclear device would be exploded.

Kim convened a meeting of the Workers' Party's Central Military Commission and made a "historic" and "important concluding speech" that serves as a guideline for strengthening the military and defending national security and sovereignty, the official Korean Central News Agency said. It did not say when the meeting took place.

Top party and military leaders who attended the meeting "evinced their firm determination to unconditionally and thoroughly implement the militant tasks set forth by him," KCNA said.

Analyst Hong Hyun-ik at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea said he believes Kim's guidelines refer to a nuclear test and suggest that North Korea appears to have completed formal procedural steps and be preparing to conduct a nuclear test soon.

By publicizing the Workers' Party meeting, North Korea also aims to "employ pressure on the West and unite its people" behind Kim, Hong said. Kim took power after the December 2011 death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

US and South Korean troops are to conduct naval drills involving a nuclear-powered American submarine off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula this week. South Korean military officials said the maneuvers are part of regular joint military training that the allies had scheduled before the latest nuclear tensions began. But they still could be used as a show of force against North Korea.

North Korean state media on Saturday described the drills as a joint exercise for a pre-emptive attack on the country. North Korea has said similar things when South Korea and the US conducted other drills, but the allies have repeatedly said they have no intention of attacking the North.

N. Korea meeting hints at nuclear test Sunday, February 03, 2013 サ 05:06pm

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has chaired a high-level meeting fuelling expectations of a nuclear test.

[PHOTO- Kim Cho地g-u地 (Kim Jong Un or Kim Jong-un) is the hereditary successor and youngest son of Kim Cho地g-il. Cho地g-u地 currently serves as a vice chairman of the Korean Worker痴 Party (KWP) Central Military Commission (CMC) and is a general in the Korean People痴 Army (KPA). His identity was publicized in September 2010.]

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has chaired a high-level meeting that discussed a looming 'great turn' in military capability, state media said, fuelling expectations of an imminent nuclear test.

Kim made a 'historic' speech at the ruling party's Central Military Commission meeting, attended by the heads of the army, the National Defence Commission and the strategic rocket force, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Sunday.

The meeting discussed 'bringing about a great turn in bolstering military capability', said KCNA, which gave no date or details of Kim's speech.

Experts and intelligence sources say the country has completed preparations for a third nuclear test which it threatened in response to tightened UN sanctions imposed for a long-range rocket launch last December.

Over the past week Pyongyang has issued a series of daily warnings threatening action over the sanctions, including a promise on Saturday of the 'toughest retaliation'.

Several observers in South Korea believe the nuclear test will come before Lunar New Year starts on February 10.

In his 'important' speech to the military commission, Kim Jong-Un issued specific guidelines for 'defending the security and sovereignty of the country', KCNA said.

It did not elaborate but said participants vowed to 'thoroughly implement the military tasks set forth'.

The North insists its December rocket launch was a purely scientific mission to put a satellite into orbit.

But the US and its allies, including the South, viewed it as a disguised ballistic missile test that violated UN resolutions prompted by the North's rocket launches and nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Recent satellite imagery showed unusually busy activity at the northeastern nuclear test site at Punggye-ri, closely monitored by US, South Korean and Japanese intelligence since the test threat.

The North has covered the entrance to a tunnel there in an apparent attempt to block satellite monitoring, the South's Yonhap news agency has said.

On Monday South Korea and its ally the United States will start a joint naval three-day exercise seen largely as a warning to the North.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un and his wife, Ri Sol-ju

North Korea's young leader tours a new amusement park with his beautiful bride, smiling and waving to adoring crowds. An everyday image of domestic bliss in high places? Or a carefully choreographed appearance aimed at showing North Korea's Kim Jong-un as a friendly, modern leader, no different from the heads of other countries? Picture: REUTERS/KCNA

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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