North Korea pressed the United States to accept its demand for direct talks on the communist regime's nuclear program, saying Monday "we will go our own way" unless Washington agrees.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry did not elaborate on its comment, which appeared to be a threat to enlarge its nuclear arsenal.
The ministry statement came as North Korea's No. 2 nuclear negotiator, Ri Gun, wrapped up a rare trip to the US where he met with the chief American nuclear negotiator, Sung Kim, amid media speculation the two discussed setting up bilateral negotiations.
North Korea has been demanding direct talks with Washington after conducting a series of nuclear and missile tests and quitting six-party nuclear negotiations involving China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the US earlier this year.
"As we have stated our position that we can hold multilateral talks, including the six-party talks, after talks with the US, it is the US turn to make a decision," the North's ministry said. "If the US is not ready to sit face-to-face with us, we will go our own way."
In an attempt to add urgency, the North has issued statements that it is enlarging its nuclear stockpile. The regime has said it was "weaponizing" plutonium and succeeded in enriching uranium, a second way of building atomic bombs.
The US has said it is willing to engage North Korea in bilateral talks if it leads to resumption of the stalled six-party talks. Officials in Washington have said, however, no decision has been made whether to accept the North's offer of direct talks.
North Korea has long called for direct talks with the US to resolve the nuclear standoff, saying it was compelled to develop atomic bombs to cope with what it calls "US nuclear threats." The US has denied it has any intention of attacking the North.