President Bush's spokesman denounced North Korea's expulsion of U.N. nuclear inspectors Friday and called on Pyongyang to shut down its nuclear weapons program.
"We will not respond to threats or broken commitments," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
But the presidential spokesman said the administration is not contemplating military action to stop North Korea from reactivating a nuclear power plant, and will seek the help of other friendly countries in the region.
"We seek a peaceful resolution," McClellan said. "For now we need to let the discussions happen between our friends and allies about the next steps."
U.S. officials said an envoy, perhaps Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, would likely be sent to the region next month to confer with allies.
Kelly had gone to Pyongyang last fall with the message that North Korea must suspend its nuclear program before serious talks could start.
North Korea ordered the expulsion Friday and announced it will reactivate a laboratory that the United States claims can produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for several atomic bombs.
On Friday, the U.S.-U.N. command overseeing the 49-year cease-fire between North and South Korea accused the North Koreans of placing light machine guns inside the demilitarized zone between the two countries six times during the last month.
On several days in December, South Korean troops saw North Korean soldiers setting up the machine guns, but taking them down at night, according to a statement from the U.S.-U.N. command. On Dec. 23, the U.N. command sent an inquiry to North Korea about the guns, but the North Koreans refused to accept it.
Intelligence officials at the Pentagon have said they have noticed no major increase in operations by North Korea's massive conventional military force.
McClellan dismissed North Korea's suggestion that there was an innocent reason for restarting its nuclear plant.
"These actions are not designed to produce electricity but rather" to bolster North Korea's nuclear weapons capability, he said.
The actions are certain to escalate tensions over Pyongyang's plan to unfreeze nuclear facilities shut down in a deal with the United States in 1994.
U.S. officials were trying to determine how far the reclusive regime was willing to go in what they view as an effort to extract concessions from the United States. The Clinton administration gave North Korea fuel oil in exchange for promises to end its nuclear program.
Bush is trying to make it clear to North Korea that he won't budge, and that the only way to secure better relations -- and eventually economic assistance -- is to keep its anti-nuclear pledge. Officials said he is determined to increase pressure through Japan, South Korea and China, and that military action is not currently being considered.