Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says North Korea is only deepening its international isolation by suspending its role in six-party talks on its nuclear program. Ms. Rice, in Luxembourg for talks with European Union officials, called the move "unfortunate," and said Pyongyang should reconsider. 

Ms. Rice responded to the North Korean statement in Luxembourg, as she finished her first overseas trip as secretary of state, calling the announcement from Pyongyang "unfortunate," especially for the people of North Korea, who she said will only become more isolated.

The secretary of state said the United States had assumed since the mid-1990's that North Korea possessed a few nuclear weapons, and that she is confident that the United States and its allies, including South Korea, can deter any military threat on the Korean peninsula.

But she said that by suspending its role in the Chinese-sponsored six-party talks, North Korea is walking away from an opportunity to get security guarantees from the United States and other participants, and to have a more reasonable relationship with the rest of the world.

"We are trying to give the North Koreans a different path. The Chinese, the Russians, the South Koreans, the Japanese are trying to give the North Koreans a different path," she said.  "And, I know that we have support from the rest of the international community in saying to the North Koreans that they ought to take what is before them, a path to a more reasonable relationship, a path to security assurances from their neighbors, including from the United States, and very clear statements from the President of the United States that there is no intention to invade or attack North Korea."

Ms. Rice declined to say what she thought was behind the North Korean statement, but said the United States will consult on it with its partners in the six-party talks, and that she hoped, in the meantime, Pyongyang will reconsider its decision.

The last round of talks was held last June in Beijing. Despite an agreement in principle by all the participants to hold another round in September, North Korea did not return, amid speculation that it was awaiting results of the U.S. presidential election.

In a proposal presented at the negotiations last year, the United States offered to be part of multi-lateral guarantees for North Korea's security, if it agreed to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear program.

The Bush administration has said it would not consider political and economic benefits for North Korea, until disarmament is complete, but it says other parties to the talks could extend aid to the economically-strapped communist state as the process unfolds.