Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday the international community has multiple ways of responding to what she termed North Korean "brinksmanship." But she said the missile tests do not mean the end of the Chinese-sponsored six-party talks over the North Korean nuclear program.
In her first public comments on the issue, Secretary Rice says North Korea may have miscalculated that its missile tests would divide the international community.
But she says in fact, the missile tests have drawn world-wide condemnation and that multiple diplomatic tools are available to make it more difficult for North Korea to continue its pursuit of long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.
The barrage of missile tests has touched off intensive diplomatic consultations between the United States and other parties to the Chinese-sponsored talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program.
In her remarks, a joint press appearance with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Rice reiterated the initial White House depiction of the missile tests as a provocation.
But she also made clear that the United States still considers the six-party talks a viable mechanism for dealing with concerns about North Korea's weapons activities.
"What the six-party talks provide is a diplomatic infrastructure that can be used to resolve problems of this kind," she said. "And it would still be incumbent on the North Koreans to use that kind of infrastructure to address these issues. I might note that Chris Hill will soon be talking with his counterparts from the six-party talks in the region. And that simply demonstrates that the wisdom of the six-party framework is that it is now not a matter of the United States and North Korea. It is really a matter of the region saying to North Korea that it has to change its behavior."
Officials here said assistant secretary of state for East Asian Affairs Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. delegate to the six-party talks, will leave Washington late Wednesday on a mission to Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo and Moscow to discuss implications of the North Korean actions.
Secretary Rice is also discussing the issue by telephone with her foreign minister counterparts of major world powers.
The six-party talks, which include South Korea, Russia and Japan as well as the United States North Korea and host China, have been idle since last November, with Pyongyang refusing to return despite a framework nuclear accord reached in September.
Under it, Pyongyang said it was willing in principle to give up its nuclear weapons and related activities in return for security guarantees and aid from the other parties.
North Korea has said it will not return to the bargaining unless the United States drops economic sanctions it imposed last year because of alleged counterfeiting of U.S. currency and other illegal activity by Pyongyang.
The United States says the penalties are completely separate from the nuclear talks but that it would discuss the issue with North Korea if it rejoined the negotiations.