SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea's top governing body warned Thursday that the regime will conduct its third nuclear test in defiance of U.N. punishment, and made clear that its long-range rockets are designed to carry not only satellites but also warheads aimed at striking the United States.
The National Defense Commission, headed by the country's young leader, Kim Jong Un, denounced Tuesday's U.N. Security Council resolution condemning North Korea's long-range rocket launch in December as a banned missile activity and expanding sanctions against the regime.
The commission reaffirmed in its declaration that the launch was a peaceful bid to send a satellite into space, but also clearly indicated the country's rocket launches have a military purpose: to strike and attack the United States.
The commission pledged to keep launching satellites and rockets and to conduct a nuclear test as part of a "new phase" of combat with the United States, which it blames for leading the U.N. bid to punish Pyongyang.
It said a nuclear test was part of "upcoming" action but did not say exactly when or where it would take place.
It was a rare declaration by the powerful commission once led by late leader Kim Jong Il and now commanded by his son.
The statement made clear Kim Jong Un's commitment to continue developing the country's nuclear and missile programs in defiance of the Security Council, even at risk of further international isolation.
The U.S. State Department had no immediate response to Thursday's statement.
Shortly before the commission issued its declaration, U.S. envoy on North Korea Glyn Davies urged Pyongyang not to explode an atomic device.
Davies was in Seoul on a trip that includes his stops in China and Japan for talks on how to move forward on North Korea relations.
North Korea claims the right to build nuclear weapons as a defense against the United States, its Korean War foe.
North Korea is estimated to have stored up enough weaponized plutonium for four to eight bombs, according to scientist who visited the North's Nyongbyon nuclear complex in 2010.