North Korea has issued a series of threats – including one to “destroy the Earth” – if the U.S. resorted to nuclear war against it.

The communist party’s newspaper Workers’ Daily declared that “the army and people of the DPRK are fully ready to mercilessly strike the bulwark of U.S. imperialist aggressors” – implying that they could hit targets in America, according to a report in the Guardian.

“There can be no Earth without Korea,” it said. “The army and people of the DPRK will destroy the Earth if the enemies dare make a nuclear strike at it. This is their do-or-die spirit.”

The talk of annihilation comes amid statements from U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that America is able to wage a multiple-front conflict, including battles with Iraq and North Korea.

“We are capable of fighting two major regional conflicts,” Rumsfeld said. “We’re capable of winning decisively in one and swiftly defeating in the case of the other, and let there be no doubt about it.”

Sen. Joseph Biden, the outgoing chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned that North Korea’s plan to restart a program for plutonium extraction could allow it to produce bombs “within months.”

A spokesman for the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency told the Guardian, “There isn’t any legitimate purpose for the facility other than separating plutonium from spent fuel.”

Biden said the crisis was “a greater danger immediately to U.S. interests … than Saddam Hussein.”

State department officials reject Pyongyang’s insistence the crisis can be resolved if the U.S. signs a non-aggression treaty.

“We will not bargain or offer inducements for North Korea to live up to the treaties and agreements it has signed,” a spokesman said.

U.S. intelligence sources were quoted by the BBC as saying they believe “North Korea may already have a small number of nuclear bombs and the material to make a few more.”

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