The U.S. State Department says North Korea's plan to test a nuclear weapon is an "unacceptable threat" to world peace and stability. A department spokesman traveling with the secretary of state in the Middle East said such a move will only further isolate North Korea.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said a nuclear test by North Korea would pose what he called "an unacceptable threat to peace and stability in Asia and the world."
In a statement issued in Cairo, the State Department spokesman said it would be a "provocative" and "reckless action." Pyongyang says it is being forced into making the test by what it calls a U.S. "threat of nuclear war and sanctions."
North Korea's surprise announcement came as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was traveling through the Middle East in an effort to gain Arab support for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
The secretary arrived in Cairo from Saudi Arabia Tuesday for talks with the foreign ministers of eight of Washington's closest allies in the Arab world - Egypt, Jordan and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. Iran's nuclear program is high on the agenda.
An unofficial deadline expires this week for Iran to stop enriching uranium, at least temporarily, in line with a United Nations demand.
For their parts, Washington's Arab allies are pushing the U.S. to help revitalize the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
After meeting with Rice in Jeddah, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the "core problem" in the Middle East, comparing it to a disease weakening the entire region.
Rice called for an end to the factional violence that has rocked the Palestinian Territories over the last two days. She said innocent Palestinian civilians are being caught up in the middle of fighting between rival security forces loyal to Fatah and Hamas. She called on all parties to stop the violence.
While she is in Cairo, Rice is also scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and with intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who is a key mediator between Israelis and the Palestinians.
She then travels on to Israel for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.