North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un chaired a top military meeting that discussed a looming "great turn" in military capability, state media said on Sunday, fuelling expectations of an imminent nuclear test.
Kim made a "historic" speech at the Central Military Commission meeting, attended by the heads of the Korean army, the powerful National Defence Commission and the strategic rocket force, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
The meeting discussed "bringing about a great turn in bolstering military capability", said KCNA, which gave no date or details of Kim's speech.
Experts and intelligence sources say North Korea has completed preparations for a third nuclear test, which Pyongyang threatened in response to UN sanctions imposed for a long-range rocket launch it carried out in December.
Over the past week, Pyongyang has issued a series of daily warnings threatening action over the UN sanctions, including a promise on Saturday of the "toughest retaliation".
A number of observers in South Korea believe the nuclear test will come before the Lunar New Year on 10 February.
In his "important" speech to the military commission, Kim Jong-Un issued specific guidelines for "defending the security and sovereignty of the country", KCNA said.
It did not elaborate but said participants vowed to "thoroughly implement the military tasks set forth".
The North insists its December rocket launch was a purely scientific mission to put a satellite into orbit.
But the US and its allies, including the South, viewed it as a disguised ballistic missile test that violated UN resolutions prompted by the North's past nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.