North Korean soldiers stand guard along the bank of the Yalu River in the North Korean town of Sinuiji, on Dec. 22, 2011.
Credit: Liu Jin

SEOUL, South Korea — Kim Jong Un has told his frontline troops to prepare for war and has issued martial law for North Korea, South Korean media report.

The martial law may be a precursor to a nuclear test, Korea JoongAng Daily reported. Kim has said the test will take place sometime between now and Tuesday, the paper says.

The announcement came after Kim held an emergency meeting of his top defense and security officials on Saturday, the Telegraph reported.

North Korea had vowed to boost its military and nuclear capabilities after the UN Security Council tightened sanctions against the country, following a resolution condemning its a North Korean rocket launch in December.

The measures would probably include a third nuclear test, The New York Times reported. North Korea previously tested its nuclear capabilities in 2006 and 2009.

An analysis of recent satellite photos by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins Schol of Advanced International Studies showed that North Korea was ready to test a weapon in the next few weeks, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

Although some analysts predicted the test would occur on Feb. 16, former leader Kim Jong Il's birthday, the move to put the country under martial law indicates the test may come sooner.

Meanwhile, the prospect of the nuclear test has China worried.

"Pyongyang is intentionally creating tensions before the incoming South Korean President Park Geun-hye has a chance to engage with the North or US President Barack Obama has a chance to shape his North Korea policy for his second tenure," China's Global Times newspaper said.

Speculation about a nuclear test comes after South Korea sent its first satellite into space from home soil on Wednesday. Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), South Korea's equivalent to NASA, announced Thursday monrning that the satellite is communicating with the ground station normally. The successful launch was greeted as a boost to national prestige, even though North Korea joined the space club first with its faltering satellite in December.

North Korea hasn't said much about the South Korean rocket launch, but it's likely that the regime will use the event to justify its own missile tests. Unlike South Korea, which is pursuing rocket technology mainly for civilian purposes, North Korea is explicitly seeking weaponry to give it more clout at the negotiating table.

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