Seoul (AFP) - North Korea warned Monday that it will carry out a nuclear test "at any time and at any location" set by its leadership, in the latest rhetoric to fuel jitters in the region.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high for weeks, with signs that the North might be preparing a long-range missile launch or a sixth nuclear test -- and with Washington refusing to rule out a military strike in response.
A spokesman for the North's foreign ministry said Pyongyang was "fully ready to respond to any option taken by the US".
The regime will continue bolstering its "preemptive nuclear attack" capabilities unless Washington scrapped its hostile policies, he said in a statement carried by the state-run KCNA news agency.
"The DPRK's measures for bolstering the nuclear force to the maximum will be taken in a consecutive and successive way at any moment and any place decided by its supreme leadership," the spokesman added, apparently referring to a sixth nuclear test and using the North's official name, the Democratic Republic of Korea.
The North has carried out five nuclear tests in the last 11 years and is widely believed to be making progress towards its dream of building a missile capable of delivering a warhead to the continental United States.