SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un 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 Sunday, an indication Pyongyang may be ready to conduct an atomic test at any time.
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 United States, 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 reasons for 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 United States 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 spoke at a meeting of the Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission.