SEOUL -- North Korea urged its impoverished people yesterday to rally around Stalinist leader Kim Jong Il, after Washington rebuffed the communist North's demand that the two sides hold bilateral talks to curb nuclear tension.
Pyongyang's state-run daily newspaper Rodong Sinmun allotted the whole front page of its Saturday edition to an editorial saying "the single-minded unity serves as the strongest weapon," said the official news agency KCNA.
"At a time like today, when the situation gets tense, no task is more important than to strengthen our single-minded unity," the editorial said.
Minju Joson, another state-run daily, said that "devotedly protecting the leader is our life and soul."
North Korea also repeated warnings of military clashes on its loosely defined and tense western sea border with South Korea. It accused the South of infiltrating a warship into the communist state's waters yesterday following "a grave situation created due to the US imperialist warhawks' invariable hostile policy toward the (North)."
North Korea's navy command said "such dangerous military provocations may entail a very serious disaster," according to a news release carried by KCNA.
The accusations, repeated several times in recent weeks and denied by the South, coincided with the worsening nuclear standoff. The two Koreas fought bloody naval skirmishes in 1999 and 2002.
The surge in communist rhetoric followed North Korea's announcement Thursday that it had nuclear weapons for self-defense.
With that declaration, Kim brandished his strongest diplomatic card yet and dramatically escalated the nuclear standoff with Washington and its allies. North Korea's claim could not be independently verified.
It remained unclear whether North Korea intended to remain a nuclear power or was trying to use the weapons as a bargaining chip to win aid, diplomatic recognition and a nonaggression treaty with Washington -- measures the North believes will guarantee the survival of Kim's regime.
As the standoff intensified between Pyongyang and Washington, newspapers in South Korea urged the government yesterday to stand firm against North Korea.
"We should be resolute against any nuclear problems that decisively threaten our national security," the mass-circulation JoongAng Daily said in an editorial.