North Korean leader Kim Jong Un convened top security and foreign affairs officials and ordered them to take "substantial and high-profile important state measures," state media said today, fueling speculation that he plans to push forward with a threat to explode a nuclear device in defiance of the United Nations. The meeting of top officials led by Kim underscores Pyongyang's defiant stance in protest of UN Security Council punishment for a December rocket launch.
Kim's order for firm action and the recent series of strong statements indicate he intends to conduct a nuclear test in the near future to show "he is a young yet powerful leader both domestically and internationally," says a North Korea expert. North Korea is estimated to have enough weaponized plutonium for four to eight bombs, and experts say another atomic test could take the country closer to its goal of building a warhead that can be mounted on a missile designed to strike the United States. Also today, Japan launched two intelligence satellites into orbit amid concerns about North Korea's threats. The launch was in the planning stages long before this, but underscores Japan's longstanding wariness of its neighbor's abilities and intentions.