WASHINGTON – North Korea Tuesday accused the United Nations of declaring war against it by imposing sanctions as punishment for testing its first nuclear bomb.

“The resolution cannot be construed otherwise than a declaration of a war,” North Korea’s state-run news agency said.

North Korea “wants peace but is not afraid of war” and will “deal merciless blows” against anyone violating its sovereignty, the agency said.

The broadside by North Korea came as intelligence officials scrutinized the country for signs of a second, possibly more powerful, nuclear test.

Spy satellite photos show movement around suspected sites. But sources said that hints of underground tests are tough to detect.

The activity started a number of days ago and included ground preparation at one site and construction of some buildings and other structures, one U.S. official said.

But another U.S. intelligence official said, “I don’t get the sense that there’s anything imminent.”

Last time, dictator Kim Jong Il announced his plans in advance.

“They can do this with little or no warning. But whether they’re going to do it today, tomorrow or the next day, we don’t know,” a defense intelligence official said.

North Korea’s Oct. 9 detonation appears to have been only 200 tons instead of a typical test of a 1- to 3-kiloton device. U.S. analysts are still deciding whether the blast was deliberately small or the test was a partial failure, sources said.

Rumors of another North Korean blast came as Secretary of State Rice prepared to pressure Asian allies and China to enforce the UN economic sanctions and isolate Kim.

“Things must be done in such a way that they don’t bring about an escalation of the situation into something uncontrollable,” Chinese President Hu Jintao told Japanese lawmakers in Beijing, the Kyodo news agency reported.

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