"I hope that the North will well heed the importance of this opportunity and act in a way that will lead to visible steps," he said.
"There is an expectation in the international community that these talks are not for the sake of talks"
US secretary of state
Six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons, involving envoys from North and South Korea, the US, China, Japan and Russia, are due to resume in Beijing on December 18.
The talks have been stalled since late last year when North Korea walked out in protest at Washington's decision to impose financial sanctions.
Efforts to bring the parties back to the table were given added urgency by the North's first test of a small nuclear weapon on October 9.
Speaking in Washington after meeting Australia's foreign minister, Rice said there was a feeling of high expectation over the resumed nuclear talks.
"I don't think anyone would ask us that we set a firm deadline by which, if we cannot do this, then the talks end," Rice told reporters after talks.
However, she said: "I do think that there is an expectation in the international community that these talks are not for the sake of talks."
On September 19, 2005, the six parties signed a joint statement setting out a range of security guarantees and other incentives that could follow once North Korea committed to abandoning nuclear weapons.
The US and its allies say that deal remains on offer, as long as the North first demonstrates its intention to abandon its nuclear weapons completely.