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In Seoul, government officials declined to comment on Chun’s reported comments.

During Tuesday’s joint military drills, a heavy fog engulfed the USS George Washington supercarrier. The carrier’s fog horn boomed out as U.S. aircraft took off and landed in quick succession.

Cmdr. Pete Walczak said that the ship’s combat direction center was closely monitoring any signs of ships, aircraft of any other activity and that nothing unusual was detected from North Korea.

“Absolutely nothing,” Cmdr. Walczak said. “A lot of saber-rattling, fist-shaking, but once our presence is here, reality says that it’s really nothing.”

The North’s propaganda machine warned that the drills could trigger a “full-blown war” on the peninsula. “Our republic has a war deterrent that can annihilate any aggressor at once,” the government-run Minju Joson said.

On the streets of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, North Koreans spoke with pride of their military.

“Those who like fire are bound to be punished with fire,” Kim Yong-jun, a Pyongyang resident, told international broadcaster APTN.

A rally in Seoul, meanwhile, drew several thousand protesters who burned North Korean flags and called for the overthrow of Kim Jong-il.

“We’ve had enough,” said Kim Jin-gyu, 64, adding that North Korea deserves punishment. “We should just smash it up.”

Yonhap news agency reported that Mr. Choe, the North Korean official, was expected to meet top Chinese Communist Party officials and discuss last week’s artillery barrage, the North’s nuclear program and the U.S.-South Korean military drills.

China has sought to calm tensions by calling for an emergency meeting among regional powers involved in six-party nuclear disarmament talks — the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russian and Japan — which have been stalled since last year.

Seoul, however, wants proof of Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearization as well as a show of regret over the March sinking of a warship.

Japan rejected a new round of aid-for-disarmament talks any time soon but announced Tuesday that a nuclear envoy would travel to China. Tokyo provided no further details

Wally Santana and Kelly Olsen reported from aboard the USS George Washington. AP writers Foster Klug, Kim Kwang-tae and Ian Mader in Seoul and Christopher Bodeen in Beijing, and photographer Jin-man Lee in Yeonpyeong contributed to this report.