WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying diplomacy to get North Korea (search) to forsake its nuclear weapons program, meeting with Pyongyang's neighbors to develop a multilateral approach to the growing threat.
Rice and South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon maintained a united front on Monday, agreeing that North Korea should stop big-footing and return to six-nation talks aimed at getting the North to abandon its nuclear weapons (search) program.
"North Korea should return to the dialogue table without any preconditions, as soon as possible. This is the consensus opinion of the international community," Ban said.
The meeting came after a weekend call between Rice and the Chinese foreign minister. The six-party talks also include Japan and Russia.
Pyongyang announced last week with some braggadocio that it has nuclear weapons, and it demanded that the Bush administration hold one-on-one talks with North Korean officials.
The United States refused, but the news led to talks between South Korea's Ban and Rice as well as her successor at the National Security Council (search), Stephen Hadley, and Vice President Cheney.
"We and the others agree that this is not the moment to start changing the playbook, as you might say; that the North Koreans shouldn't be rewarded for causing difficulties in the reconvening of talks," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
In the meantime, the United States is continuing to clamp down on some of Pyongyang's extracurricular illegal activities, which expert observers say are extensive.
"Some shipments of heroin that have come up on the Australian coast, methamphetamines that have been imported into Japan" are some examples, said Charles L. Pritchard (search), a former special envoy to North Korea who added that Pyongyang also is up to some old-fashioned counterfeiting of U.S. currency.
"They produce and distribute throughout the world but mostly in Southeast Asia," Pritchard said.
White House officials say efforts to curtail North Korea's illegal activities have been under way for some time.
"That involves law enforcement matters aimed at stopping counterfeiting and stopping drug trafficking. It also involves export controls. And it involves counter-proliferation efforts," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
In fact, the United States recently discovered that North Korea was the source of some uranium hexafluoride (search), an intermediate step toward weapons-grade materials. Pritchard said after American officials took the information to China, South Korea and Japan, Pyongyang suddenly backed out of the next round of talks.
"I think the North Koreans simply took a look at this and said that next round is not going to be advantageous to us; we don't want to attend," Pritchard said.
He said he believes the North created the accusation that the United States has a hostile policy in order to avoid facing the music on selling nuclear materials abroad.
While the North Koreans rationalize developing nuclear weapons by saying they need them for defense, they have not found a reson yet for selling nuclear materials abroad or, for that matter, heroin and amphetamines, Pritchard said.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Jim Angle.