"We're heading for a full-blown crisis with the North"

Peter Beck, Korea expert at American University, Washington

Brushing aside the latest international condemnation North Korea repeated its argument that it needed a "nuclear deterrent" because of US aggression.

"Our army and people are fully ready for battle ... against any reckless US attempt for a pre-emptive attack," the North's KCNA news agency said in a editorial released on Tuesday.

"The US would be well advised to halt at once its dangerous military moves against the [North Korea] if it wants to escape the lot of a tiger moth, bearing deep in mind that any attempt to make a pre-emptive attack on [North Korea] is little short of inviting a disaster itself."

'Hostile policy'

North Korea has accused Obama of holding on to his predecessor's "hostile policy" [EPA]
The North has repeatedly said it needs a deterrent to ward off an attack by the US.

Following Monday's test, North Korea again accused the US of trying to "stifle" it by continuing with what it called the "hostile policy" practiced by the previous administration of George Bush.

"The current US administration is following in the footsteps of the previous Bush administration's reckless policy of militarily stifling North Korea," the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary.

North Korea's unprecedented defiance has raised the stakes in the mounting standoff over its nuclear programme.

Last month, Pyongyang launched a rocket despite international calls for restraint, abandoned six-party nuclear talks, restarted its Yongbyon nuclear plant and warned it would carry out more atomic and long-range missile tests.

Domestic concerns

Some analysts suggest that Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, may be using Monday's nuclear test to strengthen his power base and so could be even less swayed than usual by more sanctions or international criticism.

"We're heading for a full-blown crisis with the North," Peter Beck, a Korea expert at the American University in Washington, told AFP.

"Kim Jong-il is trying to demonstrate his virility and that they are a power to be reckoned with."

Beck said the weapons test may be part of Kim's plan to shore up support "among the inner circle and the public", adding that the "internal domestic dynamic is taking precedence over external factors".