Three days after offering to talk to North Korea "without pre-condition", United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reversed course, insisting - as President Donald Trump has all along - that the North must stop its nuclear threats and "earn its way" to negotiations.
In the meantime, US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun was just leaving Bangkok after a visit during which he discussed with Thai leaders various means to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula, as he'd also done in Japan.
Tillerson rejected the argument that the USA bore any blame and made clear that there would be no let-up in his campaign to squeeze North Korea and steadily choke off its diplomatic channels and means of financial support.
"The pressure campaign must, and will, continue until denuclearization is achieved".
That remark caused the White House to reiterate President Trump's views on the situation "have not changed".
Sanctions aimed at punishing the North Korean regime are hampering the ability of aid groups to operate inside the country, triggering warnings that the global campaign is harming ordinary North Koreans.
The United States has called on China to cut off oil supplies to North Korea, a move that would deal a crippling blow to its economy. Council diplomats said Feltman told them the North Koreans kept repeating that the time was not right for talks.
But if talks with the USA fail, the authoritarian state could "try to make a breakthrough by improving relations with South Korea", Asan noted. Instead, he called the council meeting "a desperate measure plotted by the US being terrified by the incredible might of our republic that has successfully achieved the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force".
Because Trump has reacted with such fury to the Stalinist state's missile and nuclear tests, North Korea may have to concede ground over fears the U.S. will "execute a military strike".
On Tuesday, Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington that "we are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions".
He said the USA does not want war but "will use all necessary measures to defend itself against North Korean aggression".
Washington needs to shed light on its intentions before proceeding with any campaign to halt North Korea's nuclear ambitions. "We do not regard this claim as an empty threat".
Tillerson on Friday also called on China and Russian Federation to go beyond United Nations -mandated economic sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests.
He said "our hope remains that diplomacy will produce a resolution". Addressing the council, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged diplomatic engagement to avoid a "level of danger that would be unpredictable in its trajectory and catastrophic in its consequences".
"It is time to immediately re-establish and strengthen communication channels, including inter-Korean and military-to-military channels", Guterres said.