Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday that North Korea faces a grim economic future unless it abides by growing international demands to surrender its nuclear weapons program.

"No North Korean child can eat enriched uranium," Powell told a news conference after Pyongyang insisted during talks with Japanese officials in Malaysia that it would not dismantle its nuclear program.

"It is fool's gold for North Korea," Powell said, flanked by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the foreign and defense ministers of Australia.

On North Korea "starts to behave in a more responsible way, the better off they will be and the better off the people of North Korea will be," he said.

Powell suggested there has been a softening of the U.S. concern on how quickly North Korea should act to dismantle its nuclear program.

Last week, the State Department was demanding "immediate" dismantling; on Tuesday, Powell said it should be "prompt."

Japan and South Korea also are giving top priority to Pyongyang's abandonment of the weapons program.

Powell noted that Japan had said this past weekend at an international conference in Mexico that "unless North Korea gives this up, then it would not be possible to move forward toward normalization. And I think that's the right answer."

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defense Minister Robert Hill came here for the annual U.S.-Australian consultation on security issues.

The meeting occurred less than three weeks after a terrorist bombing at a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, killed 190 people, including 90 Australians.

Downer said the two sides "emphasized the need for close cooperation by both of us, by Australia and the United States, with Indonesia and other partners in Southeast Asia and the need for each country to take responsibility for the elimination of terrorism within their own borders."

Powell said Indonesia's political and economic challenges will be of vital importance to the United States and Australia and to the region.

Before the news conference, Rumsfeld and Hill signed an agreement that committed Australia to contributing $150 million to the development of a new fighter plane designed to perform multiple combat roles and to provide all-weather strike capability.

The F-35 Joint Strike fighter is scheduled to be ready for service in 2008. Contributions also have been pledged by Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Turkey, Italy and Britain.