SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said Sunday that South Korea should join it in resisting U.S. moves toward war, another angry pronouncement days before highly sensitive talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
North Korea has repeatedly accused the United States of planning to attack it after the Iraq war, which Washington denies. The North's intention in making the statement wasn't clear, but it has often tried to drive a wedge between South Korea and its chief ally, the United States.
North Korea's state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said all Koreans "should firmly unite as one to resolutely smash the U.S. moves for a war of aggression in order to protect the destiny of the nation and the future of a reunified country."
"The whole nation should resist the U.S. war moves in a do-or-die spirit," the newspaper said, according to the KCNA news agency, the North's foreign news outlet.
The call came before U.S.-North Korean talks in China this week about the communist North's suspected nuclear weapons program. American and South Korean officials had been encouraged that the North agreed to the talks.
But KCNA released an English-language statement Friday that obscured Pyongyang's intentions, saying North Korea was "successfully reprocessing more than 8,000 spent fuel rods at the final phase."
It was unclear if the work had actually begun or the translation was faulty. U.S. and South Korean officials said there is no proof that reprocessing was underway, and suggested the report may have been a mistranslation of the vaguely worded Korean version.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Sunday he believed the North's statement was mistranslated.
"There were effectively two statements released, one in Korean and one in English," Downer said. "The statement in Korean, which is after all their native language, suggests that they are planning to reprocess, whereas the one in English doesn't have that qualification."
Officials from the United States, North Korea and China plan to hold talks as early as this week in Beijing to discuss North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
The talks would be the first opportunity for substantive discussions with North Korea since last October, when U.S. officials said the North admitted having a uranium-based nuclear program.
Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, said Sunday that North Korea is likely to focus on securing guarantees for its "sovereign rights" during the planned three-way talks.
"It is North Korea's position that it could verify that it does not build nuclear weapons if the United States stops its hostile policy of stifling its country and removes its nuclear threat," the newspaper said, according to Yonhap news agency.
Washington believes North Korea already has one or two nuclear bombs and can extract enough plutonium from the fuel rods to make several more within months.
North Korea has never admitted or denied having nuclear bombs, but has said it has the right to develop such weapons.