North Korea – real danger to USA, top official says

However, Washington is still pursuing diplomacy to deal with fears the communist nation is preparing for a launch, Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said.

In recent weeks, North Korea has apparently prepared to test-fire long-range ballistic missile that experts say is capable of reaching parts of the U.S., and North Korean officials have asserted the country's right to launch a satellite or missile.

The North claimed after its last long-range rocket launch, in 1998, to have placed a satellite into orbit.

But it remains unclear if the North intends to really launch, or if the moves were just a negotiating tactic, according to the AP.

Vershbow said Tuesday that U.S. President George W. Bush's administration believes "diplomacy is the best way" to deal with the missile issue, and urged the North to return to international arms talks that Pyongyang has been boycotting since November.

North Korea has demanded one-on-one talks over the missile issue, but Washington rebuffed the offer, insisting that it would speak to the North only at the six-nation talks on the North's nuclear ambitions.

Vershbow repeated the U.S. position, saying the North can have many opportunities talk directly to the U.S. if it returns to the China-hosted nuclear dialogue that also includes Japan,Russia and South Korea.