The United States has "jumped to the conclusion" about the likelihood of North Korea carrying out another nuclear trial detonation, Agence France-Presse quoted a Pyongyang-controlled publication as stating on Friday.
Washington and South Korea "based on their own hypotheses and arguments, jumped to the conclusion that we would stage a third nuclear test," according to an editorial in the North Korean regime's mouthpiece in Japan, the Tongil Sinbo. "They are fussing over speculation without having a clue about what important state measures will be taken, including whether it will be a nuclear test or something worse than that."
The Stalinist state in recent weeks has made multiple direct and indirect inferences to a coming nuclear test. Satellites monitoring the North's Punggye-ri atomic test site have shown that nearly everything appears ready for the country's third underground nuclear blast.
Pyongyang is likely attempting to divert attention away from the coming event, an anonymous South Korean official said. "It's only wishful thinking that the North will not stage a third nuclear test."
The aspiring nuclear power will probably detonate its device prior to the Feb. 25 swearing-in of South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye, an anonymous high-ranking South Korean official told the Yonhap News Agency on Monday.
It is widely thought that the North's looming test will involve for the first time weaponized uranium. That would bring a dangerous new phase in the pariah state's quest for a deliverable nuclear weapon, according to the Washington Post.
Enrichment facilities have a lower energy footprint than reactors used to make plutonium, making them easier to hide from satellites. The North would then have two tracks for producing nuclear-weapon fuel.
Bomb-grade uranium is also a more desirable commodity on the international black market. "It's the easiest fissile material to make a crude bomb out of and the technical know-how and machinery for enriching uranium is more readily transferred and sold," Paul Carroll of the Ploughshares Fund said in an interview with AFP.
If given access to data from a uranium bomb test, Iran could skip the atomic device testing step altogether and attain "breakout" status without having alerted the international community to its capacity to produce a nuclear weapon.
China is increasingly frustrated with the North's provocative behavior. A North Korean nuclear test could further damage relations between the two neighbors, the Associated Press reported on Monday.
Beijing might toughen its stance but it is not likely to end its longtime support of the Kim regime, which is seen as a critical bastion against further U.S. influence in Northeast Asia.