Six-party talks on the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear programme could be resumed later this month, the US state department has said.
Last month's talks made no real breakthrough
But it said a new nuclear test by North Korea would have "severe consequences" for the diplomatic effort.
Five-day talks in Beijing ended in December without any real breakthrough.
Washington expressed frustration over Pyongyang's refusal to consider ending its nuclear programme until US financial sanctions were lifted.
N KOREA NUCLEAR PROGRAMME
Believed to have 'handful' of nuclear weapons
But not thought to have any small enough to put in a missile
Could try dropping from plane, though world watching closely
"The signals are that they [the talks] could reconvene this month," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters on Friday.
He said that Washington hoped the next round of talks would be focusing on concrete steps of dismantling North Korea's nuclear programme.
But Mr McCormack also added: "If you did have another test of a nuclear device, that would have severe consequences for the viability of that political-diplomatic process".
Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test last October, triggering a wave of international condemnation and UN sanctions.
The latest round in Beijing was held two months after the test.
The Chinese team ended the talks with a statement that simply reaffirmed an agreement from September 2005 that the North would agree to disarm in return for aid and guarantees of security.
The talks involve the US, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.