North Korea (search) has ordered its people to be ready for a protracted war against the United States, issuing guidelines on evacuating to underground bunkers with weapons, food and portraits of leader Kim Jong Il (search).

The 33-page "Detailed Wartime Guidelines," published in South Korea's Kyunghyang newspaper on Wednesday and verified by Seoul, was issued April 7, 2004, at a time when the communist regime was claiming that it was Washington's next target following the Iraq (search) war.

The manual — the first such North Korean document made public in the outside world — was signed by Kim Jong Il in his capacity as chairman of the Central Military Committee of the ruling Workers' Party. That ended speculation over whether Kim has assumed the top military post following the 1994 death of his father, President Kim Il Sung.

Analysts said the guidelines reflected Pyongyang's fear over a possible U.S. military strike amid stalled talks on its nuclear weapons programs, as well as its campaign to whip up a sense of crisis among its 22 million populace, reportedly growing discontent amid economic hardship.

"The United States has cooked up suspicion over our nuclear programs and is escalating an offensive of international pressure to strangle and destroy our republic," the booklet said. "If this tactic doesn't work, it plots to use this (nuclear) problem as an excuse for armed invasion."

Kyunghyang did not clarify where it acquired the document classified as "top secret."

Seoul's National Intelligence Service said in a one-sentence statement: "We believe the document reflects North Korea's wartime preparations."

The manual urged the military to build restaurants, wells, restrooms and air purifiers in underground bunkers where government offices and military units will move in if war breaks out.

When North Koreans evacuate to underground facilities, they should make sure that they take the portraits, plaster busts and bronze statues of Kim and his parents so that they can "protect" them in a special room.

The Kim family has ruled North Korea for more than a half century, creating a powerful personality cult. Portraits of Kim and his father hang side-by-side on the walls of every house.

Since the Korean War ended in 1953, North Korea has built a 1.1 million-member military, the world's fifth largest, although most of its weapons are outdated. It already keeps vital military facilities in an estimated 10,000 underground tunnels and bunkers, South Korean officials say.

The Pyongyang subway is hundreds of meters (yards) below the surface to double as an air raid shelter, and the North's military has dug "invasion tunnels" across the border with the South.

North Korea is locked in a dispute with Washington and its allies over its nuclear weapons programs.

Pyongyang escalated its threats after the United States invaded Iraq, which U.S. President George W. Bush termed as an "axis of evil," together with Iran and North Korea. North Korean villages are festooned with slogans exhorting the people to prepare for a war with "our sworn enemy, the U.S. imperialists."

"The North has real fear that it may become the next Iraq under the Bush administration," said Kim Tae-woo, a senior fellow at Seoul's Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. "The guidelines also appear aimed at tightening domestic control on the people as the economic difficulties erode the regime's grip on power."

Kim said Washington is building more powerful missiles that could destroy underground military targets in countries like North Korea.

On Tuesday, North Korea accused the United States of planning to deploy those missiles in South Korea for a "preemptive attack" on the North. Washington says it wants to end the nuclear dispute peacefully.