SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ North Korea said the Koreas should ``pool their efforts'' to stymie what it called an American design to start a nuclear war on the peninsula, but kept silent Wednesday on a new U.S. offer of dialogue.

Under a New Year's policy push, the communist state has made a top priority of urging more cooperation with South Korea in an apparent attempt to drive a wedge between Seoul and its major ally the United States.

``It is plain to everyone that if a nuclear war breaks out in Korea, it will bring catastrophic disasters to the Koreans in both parts of Korea,'' the North's official news agency, KCNA, said in a commentary Wednesday.

The message said there is an ``increasing danger of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula'' because of the United States, and it urged the two Koreas to ``pool their efforts and condemn and frustrate the U.S. nuclear policy for aggression.''

North Korea accuses Washington of using the North's recent decision to reactivate its nuclear facilities as an excuse for a pre-emptive nuclear attack. North Korea claims the facilities are necessary to generate electricity.

While Washington fears the plants could be used to build bombs, it has repeatedly said it has no intention of invading.

Ending two days of consultations in Washington with Japan and South Korea, the United States said Tuesday it is willing to talk to North Korea but will not make concessions to freeze Pyongyang's nuclear programs.

In a joint statement, the allies endorsed solving the dispute through dialogue.

The European Union, in a statement released late Tuesday in Greece, said it ``strongly urges'' North Korea ``to refrain from any further escalation and to dismantle immediately any nuclear weapons program in a visible and verifiable manner.''

South Korea wrote off the North's attempts to divide the allies as propaganda. But it also welcomed an apparent softening in Washington.

The United States had previously said it would not talk to North Korea unless the communist state scraps its nuclear weapons programs first. South Korean television stations flashed the news, hailing it as ``a possible breakthrough.''

Lee Tae-shik, the chief South Korean delegate to the Washington talks, urged North Korea to take the next step by giving up its nuclear weapons programs.

``North Korea's open willingness to abandon its nuclear programs should be the starting point for dialogue,'' Lee was quoted as saying by South Korea's Yonhap news.

In Tokyo, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, said the three allies ``are prepared for discussions'' with North Korea.

North Korea alarmed the world by taking steps in December to reactivate nuclear facilities at Yongbyon that were frozen under a deal with the United States in 1994.

The country since has expelled U.N. monitors and threatens to quit the global nuclear arms control treaty. The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency this week decided to give the North ``one more chance'' to honor international safeguards obligations.

In South Korea, about 400 military veterans and citizens at a pro-U.S. rally on Wednesday burned an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il clinging to a missile.

``Long live the South Korea-U.S. solidarity!'' the demonstrators chanted in front of the U.S. Air Force's Osan Air Base, 28 miles south of Seoul.

About 37,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against communist North Korea.