Officially atheist North Korea is calling for a ”holy war against the United States.”

One day after Communist North Korea announced it was quitting an anti-nuclear pact, government leaders staged a rally in Pyongyang to declare they would seek ”revenge with blood” toward any country that violates their sovereignty.

Officials said they were ready to resume missile tests and may start reprocessing spent fuel rods from its nuclear reactor to make atomic bombs.

Meanwhile, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said in Santa Fe that North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Han Song Ryol, told him that ”North Korea has no intentions of building nuclear weapons.”’ Richardson said he briefed Secretary of State Colin Powell on the nine hours of talks that stretched over three days but insisted he’s not an agent of the Bush administration.

According to a report in the London Guardian, a crowd of 1 million people – packed into the capital’s main plaza, adorned with anti-American banners and huge portraits of President Kim Jong Il – erupted in chants and pumped fists toward the winter sky, shouting in unison, ”We wholeheartedly support it!”

Choe Jin Su, North Korea’s ambassador to China, said new missile tests could resume if the United States doesn’t take steps to improve relations.

”Because all agreements have been nullified by the United States side, we believe we cannot go along with the self-imposed missile moratorium any longer,” Choe said in Beijing, according to the Guardian report.

The U.S. believes North Korea already has one or two nuclear weapons and could make more in six months, if reprocessing to extract plutonium is resumed.

Son Mun San, in charge of Pyongyang’s relations with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, said in Vienna a nuclear reprocessing plant now stands in a state of ”readiness.”

He said the reactor at the site would be up and running in a matter of weeks, roughly in line with earlier forecasts by the Vienna-based nuclear agency.

On Saturday, a newspaper commentary carried by North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, warned: ”If any forces attempt to encroach upon the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK, it will mercilessly wipe out the aggressors and mete out stern punishment to them.” DPRK stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.

Since the nuclear standoff resumed, the North has removed seals placed on the Yongbyon facility by nuclear agency monitors and expelled two inspectors as part of its renunciation of the 1994 agreement struck with the Clinton Administration.

By dropping out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty effective yesterday, the U.S. could take the case to the United Nations Security Council where economic and political sanctions could be imposed on Pyongyang as punishment. North Korea has said it would take such a move as ”a declaration of war.”

In the South Korean capital Seoul, about 30,000 people rallied in support of the U.S. military presence as a deterrent to an attack from the North.

At the Pyongyang rally, speakers backed the government withdrawal from the nuclear treaty as ”a legitimate measure for self-defense” and a bold initiative of President Kim.

”The declaration was the Great General’s cannon-boom announcement that forcefully demonstrated to the whole world his grits and aggressive spirit to respond to the enemy’s hard-line policy with a super hard-line policy,” Communist official Ri Ji Yong said at the rally, broadcast by North Korea’s Central Television.

Ri was among a series of party officials bundled in fur hats and overcoats who spilled anti-American diatribes from the podium.

Premier Hong Song Nam said North Korea was determined to ”defend its right to exist from the U.S. imperialists who put an ‘axis of evil’ cap on us and forced its lackey International Atomic Energy Agency to adopt a resolution to defame the Republic.”

Another official called for launching ”a holy war against the United States with a military-led might,” as the crowd shouted in unison in response. North Korea maintains close relations with many Islamic nations – including Iran and Iraq. President Bush has referred to the three nations as ”the axis of evil.”

Still another official at the rally urged that the North ”punish the enemy with bloody revenge that we have harbored for 100 years.”

Other squares, plazas and streets of Pyongyang also thronged with people ”with burning hatred for the U.S. imperialists,” the official news agency said.

The main square held posters with anti-American slogans, such as a large drawing of a North Korean soldier with bulging biceps killing U.S. troops with a bayonet. It said: ”Whoever messes with us will not avoid death!”

Other banners called for an ”iron hammer blow on U.S. imperialist devils” and ”smash U.S. nuclear maniacs.” The rallies ended with music from military brass bands.

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