North Korea said Tuesday it would use its nuclear weapons if provoked both to defend itself and to carry out a reprisal for any attack by its enemies.
A major North Korean newspaper said on Tuesday the country maintains a nuclear deterrent to maintain peace in the region, while warning: "it will be a means of merciless offensive of just retaliatory attack to those who damage our pride and sovereignty."
The communist country would answer any pre-emptive strike with "an advanced pre-emptive strike" of its own, the cabinet newspaper Minju Joson said.
The nuclear deterrent would be a strong tool to protect regional peace and carry out a "just retaliatory strike" which would be "merciless" on those who infringe on its dignity and sovereignty, it said.
The communist party daily Rodong Sinmun carried a similar warning in a commentary Tuesday, 15 days after the North carried out its second nuclear test.
"It is the revolutionary spirit of the army and people and the mode of counter-action for self-defense to decisively wipe out the aggressors, reacting to the enemy's high-handed acts with the toughest measures and its pre-emptive attack with the advanced pre-emptive strikes of Korean style," it said.
"The U.S. imperialists had better give up their war gambling as it would only invite their self-destruction."
North Korea appears ready to further ratchet up tensions by preparing for tests of a long-range missile that could reach U.S. territory and mid-range missiles capable of striking anywhere in South Korea and in most of Japan, officials have said.
Experts said the North may have enough fissile material for up to eight bombs but has not shown that it has developed a working nuclear weapon. It is also likely several years away from miniaturizing an atomic weapon to mount on a warhead.
It is the revolutionary spirit of the army and people and the mode of counter-action for self-defense to decisively wipe out the aggressors
Rodong Sinmun, Communist party daily
Analysts said the military grandstanding may be primarily aimed at the internal audience to help leader Kim Jong-il, who is believed to have suffered a stroke last year, arrange for eventual succession in Asia's only communist dynasty for his youngest son, Swiss-educated Jong-un.
Adding to the mystery of a change of leadership in one of the world's most secretive states, Kim's sister Kim Kyong-hui made a rare public appearance when the North's state media reported this week that she went to the opera with her brother.
The last time state media said she appeared in public was about six years ago, the South's Unification Ministry said. Kim's oldest son Jong-nam has told Japanese broadcasters this week from his home in Macau that his father favours Jong-un and that is why he may be the next leader.
The U.N. Security Council may adopt a new resolution as early as this week to clamp down on the country's arms trade and finances, but members are divided on how to respond.
it will be a means of merciless offensive of just retaliatory attack to those who damage our pride and sovereignty
North Korea major
China, the North's biggest benefactor, is wary of moves that might push its fragile neighbour into collapse fearing this could destabilise the region and cause a flood of refugees.
"China will support strong sanctions, but not extreme ones," said Qin Yaqing, Vice President of China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing and an adviser to senior leaders on regional affairs, in an interview with Reuters.
International efforts to negotiate an end to the North's nuclear program stalled in December and virtually collapsed in early April when the North launched a long-range rocket.
After the U.N. Security Council censured the launch, the North announced it was quitting the six-nation talks and restarting a program to make weapons-grade plutonium.
It followed up with a nuclear test and has also launched six short-range missiles, renounced the truce which ended the 1950-1953 Korean War and threatened possible attacks on the South.