North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, during his most recent meeting with party and military leaders, reportedly gave instructions that the reclusive regime prepare for a third nuclear test, this time using enriched uranium, according to reports from Free Radio of North Korea, based in South Korea.
Kim "emphasized the importance of improvement of nuclear technologies with the aim of attracting the U.S. to direct bilateral talks," according to the radio station's source.
The meeting during which this order was reportedly given took place on Aug. 26 in the port city of Wonsan and was attended by military leaders and high-ranking officials of the North Korean regime.
Kim reportedly proposed the measure as a mean of luring the U.S. to conduct direct talks with North Korea, and to loosen sanctions against Pyongyang.
The source said Sept. 20, which marks the official end of the "150-Day Battle" to achieve higher productivity, is a possible date for the test. Another date mentioned was Oct. 10, the day of the founding of the Labor Party of Korea.
The North has been locked in an international standoff with the U.S. and other nations over its atomic ambitions after launching a rocket, test-firing missiles and conducting an underground nuclear test.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry said Saturday it would not oppose the United States holding direct talks with North Korea to persuade the communist regime to rejoin stalled international nuclear disarmament negotiations.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday Washington was preparing to accept Pyongyang's offer for one-on-one talks as part of efforts to resume the six-nation negotiations. But he insisted there has been no shift from previous U.S. statements that Washington would only meet with North Korea as part of the six-nation process.
Crowley said no decision has been made on when or where such a meeting would occur.
Pyongyang pulled out of the talks with the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia and Japan in April, protesting international criticism of its launch of a rocket which the regime said was a satellite launch but which other nations suspected was a test of long-range missile technology. North Korea subsequently conducted a nuclear test that drew U.N. sanctions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.