North Korea (search) on Sunday criticized Japan's new defense guidelines, saying that Tokyo (search) has joined "U.S. vicious hostile policy" toward its communist state.

The statement came after top U.S. and Japanese officials expressed deep concern about North Korea's nuclear programs, and pressed Pyongyang (search) to soon resume international talks aimed at halting its weapons development.

Earlier this month, North Korea announced it has nuclear weapons and would boycott U.S.-sponsored disarmament talks.

Japan's new defense plan, adopted in December, eased its ban on exporting weapons, allowing the country to pursue a missile defense program with Washington. The plan also singled out the threats posed by North Korean missiles, China's military buildup and terrorism.

Japan has "joined in the U.S. vicious hostile policy toward the DPRK and its moves to stifle it and, therefore, the situation of the Korean Peninsula has reached the worst phase," said the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper. The commentary was carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency.

DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

The new Japanese policy's "first target is the DPRK. This is proved by the new 'defense program outlines' allegedly to cope with threat from the DPRK and China," it said.

Japan pledged it would avoid offensive military activity abroad. But Asian nations that suffered at the hands of a militarist Japan in the first half of the 20th century have expressed misgivings.

Communist North Korea rattled the Japanese in 1998 when it fired a missile that soared over and crashed into the Pacific Ocean.