North Korea to conduct nuclear test in 2011?

The North had threatened to launch a "holy" war using nuclear deterrents if it was attacked.

London: North Korea could conduct another nuclear test next year in the aftermath of the fresh military drills carried out by the South, which has raised tension on the peninsula, a media report said.

According to British newspaper the Daily Mail, the North praised Kim Jong Il and his "songun" - or military-first - policy. Any nuclear test could also be an attempt to strengthen the credential of Kim Jong-Il`s appointed successor, Kim Jong-Un.

The North had threatened to launch a "holy" war using nuclear deterrents if it was attacked.

Pyongyang celebrated the 19th anniversary of its leader Kim Jong Il`s elevation to supreme commander of the Korean People`s Army Friday, just hours after Seoul staged massive military exercises near the heavily guarded border.

"Kim Jong Il is the benevolent father and a mainstay for the faith of the army and people," the Mail quoted an editorial excerpt from the Rodon Sinmun newspaper.

It described him as an "invincible and iron-willed commander" who "leads the single-minded tens of millions of ranks of revolutionary fighters with love and trust".

With relations at a low, North Korea has been struggling to restart negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programme in exchange for much-needed aid. The programme - and two widely criticised nuclear tests - has drawn a raft of sanctions from the international community.
But the defiant North Korea is expected to continue the programme next year, according to a South Korean Foreign ministry think tank.

It is believed to have enough weaponised plutonium for at least six atomic bombs and also has revealed uranium enrichment programmes that could lead to more weapons.

Heightened tensions have raised fears of more violence on the peninsula, which still remains at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire.

According to an International Crisis Group report, the disputed maritime boundary and the volatility of North Korean politics have "created a serious risk that any further provocation might turn into a wider conflict".

While the North would lose in an all-out war against the South and the US, "Seoul is constrained in retaliating forcefully because it has so much to lose", the report said.

A statement from the North Korean Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security said: "There is a possibility of North Korea carrying out its third nuclear test to seek improvement in its nuclear weapons production capability, keep the military tension high and promote Kim Jong-un`s status as the next leader.

"Tension between the two Koreas will remain high with chances of additional North Korean attacks on the South staying high."
The North`s KNCA news agency blamed Washington for the increased tension and called its neighbour a US "shock brigade".

"The US is entirely to blame for the alarming developments on the peninsula this year as it used the peninsula for realising its strategy to dominate East Asia," the agency said.