SEOUL, South Korea – As the United States considers beefing up its military around the Korean peninsula, North Korea's leader visited a naval base and praised the unit's sailors as "human bombs" defending socialism, the North's state media reported Tuesday.
Kim Jong Il inspected a naval unit at an undisclosed location on Monday and was satisfied with the unit's combat readiness, the KCNA news agency said.
Kim commended the unit's sailors, who he said have been trained as "invincible fighters" armed with "the spirit of becoming human bombs and the spirit of blowing oneself up as their invariable faith," said the agency's report, monitored by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.
On Tuesday, meanwhile North Korea accused the United States of beefing up its military presence around the Korean Peninsula to "crush" the North.
The North's communist regime was reacting after U.S. officials in Washington said Monday that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is considering sending an aircraft carrier to the waters off the Korean Peninsula and adding bombers in Guam.
The move is intended as a signal to Pyongyang that the United States remains capable of blunting an attack in Korea despite its focus on possible war in Iraq, the officials said.
The United States has 37,000 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.
"In an attempt to crush us to death, the U.S. military is scheming to beef up forces in Japan and South Korea," said North Korea's Central Radio, which is monitored by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.
In a report by its state-run KCNA news agency, North Korea also said its people are ready to sacrifice for their leader and socialism "no matter how the world may change."
North Korea's media routinely churn out anti-U.S. invective, but the rhetoric has become more frequent and intense since the nuclear dispute erupted in October when U.S. officials said that Pyongyang admitted having a nuclear weapons program.
"The Korean people have a particular attachment to the socialist system chosen and built by themselves in their own way," KCNA said in a report, also monitored by Yonhap.
"This unity means the unity of the people in the faith that they are ready to share the destiny with leader Kim Jong Il in difficulties and ordeals and their unity in the will to always remain true to their pledge made to him no matter how the world may change," it said.
Pyongyang has accused Washington of escalating the nuclear standoff as a pretext for an invasion. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush believes the standoff can be resolved peacefully.
Rumsfeld met Monday at the Pentagon with Chyung Dai-chul, a special envoy for South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun, who takes office Feb. 25.
Rumsfeld and Chyung discussed the future of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance and the need for improving it, according to a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis.
At the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday appealed for urgent funds to avert "a major humanitarian crisis" in North Korea and create better conditions to resolve the nuclear standoff peacefully.
The impoverished North has been dependent on outside aid since 1995 to help feed its 22 million people. More than 2 million North Koreans are believed to have died of hunger or hunger-related diseases in the late 1990s.
While trying to resolve the North's nuclear dispute through diplomacy, the United States wants to bring the issue before the U.N. Security Council, which could eventually consider sanctions against Pyongyang.
In Vienna, the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that its 35-nation board of governors will meet Feb. 12 to discuss the nuclear standoff. The board could refer the dispute to the U.N. Security Council.
North Korea, however, wants to expand exchanges with South Korea. Seoul's Hyundai business group said it plans to run a trial overland tour to a North Korean mountain resort on Wednesday and Thursday. The tour will mark the opening of a first cross-border road between the two Koreas.
In December, Washington and its allies suspended oil shipments to North Korea after U.S. officials reported that North Korea acknowledged having a clandestine nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang then took steps to restart an earlier nuclear program, expelled U.N. monitors and withdrew from a global nuclear arms control treaty.