Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the State Department doesn't have any "wins to put on the board" after the first year of the Trump administration.
Tillerson made the remark on Tuesday during a forum hosted by US think tank Atlantic Council in Washington.
"Let's just meet and we can talk about the weather if you want to".
This appeared to represent a softening in the United States position, seeing as officials had previously demanded that Kim Jong-Un's regime demonstrate a willingness to consider giving up their arsenal.
But it also is a shift from Tillerson's own previous comments that the USA would not negotiate its way to the negotiating table with North Korea and that it would only talk once the regime was ready to address its denuclearization.
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"So I clearly think they understand that if we are going to talk, we have to have period of quiet. or it's going to be very hard to have productive discussions".
In a rare admission of discussion of a highly sensitive topic, Tillerson said Washington has discussed with Beijing how North Korea's nuclear weapons might be secured in case of instability there.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to comments from Tillerson in a statement, saying that President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for "serious case of amnesia" after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don't want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE's position on North Korea remained unchanged.
"We don't know a whole lot about what it will be like to engage with him, and that's why I think my expectations of how to start are really framed around, first, I have to know who my counterpart is", Tillerson said.
Tillerson went on to elaborate on the Trump administration's diplomatic goals in the Korean Peninsula. It flew higher and farther than any previous test, and demonstrated that North Korea had the ability to hit "everywhere in the world", Defense Secretary James Mattis said at the time.
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Kim said on Tuesday the scientists and workers would continue manufacturing "more latest weapons and equipment" to "bolster up the nuclear force in quality and quantity", the KCNA news agency reported.
Tillerson added later, "If there was any condition at all to this is that, 'Look, it's going to be tough to talk if in the middle of our talks you decide to test another device.'" There needed to be a "period of quiet", he said, "or it's going to be very hard to have productive discussions".
North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons technology has led to heavy US-led sanctions against the regime. "We can talk about whether it's going to be a square table if that's what you are excited about", Tillerson said. "They did not offer any type of commitment to us at that point". And so we continue to indicate to them, we need a period of quiet.
The US also continues to work with Russian Federation in creating conditions to support the Geneva peace process in order to bring peace to Syria, Tillerson said.
"I think the president has been quite clear that he views it as extremely important that the United States and Russian Federation have a working relationship", Tillerson said on Tuesday.
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