Moscow: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has issued a secret order to put the country under martial law in preparation for a third nuclear test in its history, a South Korean newspaper reported Thursday.
Kim Jong-un convened an emergency meeting with top defence and security officials and supposedly said: "The country will be under martial law starting from midnight on Jan 29, and all the frontline and central units should be ready for a war."
South Korean Joongang Daily also speculated that the new nuclear test could be held either Feb 16, the birthday of former leader Kim Jong-il, or Feb 25, the inauguration day of South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye.
North Korea vowed Jan 23 to strengthen its military capabilities and step up its controversial nuclear programme shortly after the UN Security Council imposed new sanctions on the country over the December rocket launch.
Pyongyang also pledged to end any efforts at denuclearising the Korean Peninsula and to withdraw from six-party talks.
Satellite images have shown that the reclusive communist regime has been digging a new underground tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the country's northeast, where it conducted two previous nuclear tests, first in 2006 and then in 2009.
North Korea has been subjected to several rounds of UN Security Council sanctions since it declared itself a nuclear power in 2005.