SEOUL -- North Korea yesterday accused the United States of seeking to start a new war on the Korean Peninsula, as it vowed to boost its own military and called for the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea.
''Dark clouds of war are hovering over the Korean nation, [which] is ardently yearning for reunification," said an editorial in the North's official Korean Central News Agency and three state-run newspapers. ''It is the real intention of the US not to hesitate to plunge the Korean nation to nuclear catastrophe."
North Korea often issues policy directives in New Year's Day editorials.
''The entire nation should firmly defend peace and security on the Korean Peninsula by turning out in the struggle to resolutely foil the US attempt to launch another war," the editorial said.
''We must remove the root cause of war completely from this land by launching a nationwide campaign for driving out the US troops," it added.
The message did not mention the international standoff over North Korea's nuclear programs.
The United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan, and Russia have held five rounds of talks since 2003 aimed at resolving the standoff. In September, North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear weapons programs in return for aid and security assurances, but no progress has been made in implementing the agreement.
In December, North Korea threatened to boycott the six-nation talks unless the United States lifts sanctions it imposed over alleged counterfeiting and other illicit activities by the North.
The North says it developed nuclear weapons to deter a US attack. Washington has repeatedly said it has no intention of invading the communist country.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il faces the challenge of reviving his country's sickly economy, and the editorial called agriculture ''the main front of the economic construction this year." It added, however, that the military remained ''a top priority."
Kim has followed a ''songun" -- or ''army first" -- policy aimed at building up the country's 1.1-million-member military and protecting his government.