North Korea has said the crisis over its nuclear program should be settled through direct negotiations with the United States. But American officials say Washington would continue to work with regional allies.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reiterated President George W. Bush's assertion that the United States has no plans to attack North Korea. But he repeated administration demands that North Korea dismantle its nuclear program.
Mr. Rumsfeld made his comments on the television program Fox News Sunday. "The central requirement is that they end their nuclear capabilities and their programs. They have at least two ... nuclear programs, that we know of, going on," he said.
The crisis began in October, when U.S. officials said the North admitted it had a secret nuclear weapons program, which Pyongyang later denied. The United States subsequently cut fuel aid shipments to the North. Last month, North Korea expelled U.N. inspectors and moved to restart a frozen nuclear complex. It later withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
To help resolve the crisis, the Bush administration has been working with regional allies and others, including China, which is a close ally of North Korea.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, China's ambassador to the United States, Yang Jiachi, was asked whether North Korea has nuclear weapons. "We don't know. They've said that they have no nuclear weapons. And the Americans are saying they have a nuclear program. And what we are trying to do is play a constructive and positive role," Ambassador Jiachi said.
China is one of a number of countries in the region enlisted by the United States to try to convince North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program.