A day after bluntly telling North Korea that it can either have a future or nuclear weapons but not both, the United States has toned down its rhetoric, saying what Pyongyang was told was not an "ultimatum" but a statement of "policy".
The Bush administration made it clear that Pyongyang stood to face unspecified consequences should it proceed with its nuclear test, that some speculate will take place this Sunday or next Monday.
"...It's a statement of our policy, which is, we don't think they should have nuclear weapons. And I think the Chinese agree and the South Koreans agree, and the Russians agree, and the Japanese agree.
So all the parties to it -- with one possible exception in the six-party talks, and that would be the North Koreans -- agree. And we hope that they will agree too," White House Spokesman Tony Snow said.
"We're just going to have wait and see what happens. I don't want to be speculating from the podium nor do I want to be talking about what may or may not be going on," Snow maintained refusing to give a hypothetical answer on what would happen if North Korea proceeded with its nuclear test.
"If that happened, I would have an answer" Snow said.
With hectic diplomacy playing out in Washington, New York and especially Asian capitals, the Bush administration is once again making it known that it is taking the North Korean threat "very seriously."
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said in an interview to Fox News "this is not as some people have said a kind of child psychology get attention ploy by North Korea. Our judgment is that they're serious. It's consistent with the logic of their own strategic plan."
"And we're doing everything we can to dissuade them from undertaking this test because if they actually do light off a nuclear weapon, it will change things forever in northeast Asia," he said.
Asked who was a bigger headache at this point of time -- Iran or North Korea -- Bolton replied, "I have two big headaches, and it's tough at any given moment."
"The North Korean threat I think is more immediate because they likely do have nuclear weapons already. They are testing longer range, more accurate ballistic missiles.
"And obviously, our greatest concern would be if they're capable of mating a nuclear weapon to a missile. This is obviously what concerns Japan, South Korea and other countries in the region," Bolton added.
The American envoy to the world body argued that one reason why Pyongyang is threatening to go ahead with the test is because they have the wherewithal but that it is imperative that a major push be given to ensure that this did not take place.
"If they actually could have a successful test that would register in seismic testing stations around the world, that would prove that they have nuclear weapons. And from their logic, from their perspective, that would be a significant step forward for them" Bolton said.