Stalinist North Korea, in a New Year message yesterday, urged its soldiers to become "human bullets and bombs" against possible US attacks and vowed to boost farming to feed its people amid international fears of famine.
The nation also vowed to bolster unity with South Korea in an editorial message carried jointly by three newspapers representing the ruling communist party, military and youth guard.
"Whatever the situation is, the principled stand of our party and state to give top priority to the military remains unchanged," read the message, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
It urged North Korea's 1.1 million troops to become "human bullets and bombs" defending the state led by Kim Jong-il, one of the world's most isolated countries, from possible US attacks.
The North also called on South Koreans to join its "struggle to resolutely foil the US attempt to launch another war" on the Korean peninsula.
"We must remove the root cause of war completely from this land by launching a nationwide campaign for driving out the US troops," the message said.
North Korea has been locked in a standoff for years with the US over its development of nuclear weapons. It has stepped up its anti-US rhetoric in recent weeks following US criticism of its human rights record.
The editorial, however, avoided touching on the stalemated nuclear disarmament negotiations which involve the US, both Koreas, China, Russia and Japan.
"What stands out is North Korea's strong desire for national cooperation with South Korea to stave off US pressure," said Nam Sung-wook, an expert on North Korea and professor at Korea University in South Korea. "It sidesteps a direct US hit."
At the six-party talks in September, the North agreed in principle to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for diplomatic and economic benefits and security guarantees.
But at the last session of negotiations in November, it said US financial sanctions were blocking any progress. Pyongyang now boycotts the talks.
North Korea's joint editorial, which sets out policy guidelines, has replaced a New Year's speech once given by the country's founding father Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994.
In yesterday's message, it said the impoverished state wanted to improve the standard of living of its people by boosting food production.
"Agriculture should be put forward as the main front of economic construction this year, too, and all the forces be mobilized and concentrated on farming once again," it said.
UN food aid to North Korea ended on Saturday after Pyongyang said it no longer needed emergency shipments despite concerns that millions were still going hungry.
Officials in Seoul say the North wants to strengthen its agriculture through long-term investment rather than stop-gap emergency aid in order to escape from its chronic food shortages.
North Korea has also been uncomfortable about granting UN relief agency workers greater access to the country, which runs contrary to its policy of keeping its 23 million people shielded from outside influence, experts say.
The World Food Program had been feeding up to 6.5 million people in the country.