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Spanish Ambassador Javier Gil Catalina said the North Korean’s comment appeared to be a breach of international law.

“In the 30 years of my career, I’ve never heard anything like it and it seems to me that we are not speaking about something that is even admissible. We are speaking about a threat of the use of force that is prohibited by Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter,” Mr. Catalina said, according to Reuters.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said last week that it was preparing for “various provocations, terrorist acts and cyberattacks” by North Korea. The two nations are technically still at war because Korean War battles ended in 1953 with only a temporary truce rather than a permanent peace agreement.

In his departure speech Tuesday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who leaves office next week, said the North’s increasing isolation and escalating sanctions were drawing it closer to “a dead end.”

North Korea confirmed last week that it had tested a “miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force,” a development that would put Pyongyang closer to having a usable nuclear warhead to deploy atop a ballistic missile.

North Korea said the test was in response to U.S.-led U.N. sanctions on the communist nation after Pyongyang launched the long-range rocket in December. Indeed, North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 in response to U.N. sanctions.

However, the international response to the test suggests tensions are likely to spiral upward as several nations have moved to tighten the screws on North Korea.

The European Union on Monday imposed additional trade and economic sanctions and demanded that North Korea abstain from further nuclear tests and sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The U.S. is pushing for stronger U.N. Security Council sanctions.

U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1718, 1874 and 2087 demand that North Korea not conduct any more nuclear tests. In January, the United Nations vowed to take significant action if North Korea tested a nuclear device.

“The United States calls on [North Korea] to refrain from additional provocative actions that would violate its international obligations and run counter to its commitments,” said Mr. Clay of the State Department.