Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday it will be "up to North Korea" to decide when it is ready to engage in serious and meaningful diplomatic talks with the US.
Tillerson was reacting to Vice President Mike Pence's remarks to the Washington Post on Sunday that the Trump administration is now willing to sit down and talk with North Korea.
"As to the vice president's comments about potentially having talks and whether it's the start of a diplomatic process, I think it's too early to judge. As we've said for some time, it's really up to the North Koreans to decide when they're ready to engage with us in a sincere, a meaningful way," Tillerson said Monday at a news conference in Cairo.
He said the North Koreans "know what has to be on the table for conversations."
"We're going to need to have some discussions that precede any form of negotiation to determine whether the parties are in fact ready to engage in something that's meaningful in order for us to then put together the construct of a negotiation. So we'll just have to wait and see," Tillerson said.
During an interview on Air Force Two returning from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Pence told The Washington Post that the US and South Korean President Moon Jae-in had agreed on further engagement with North Korea. Pence said potential talks are contingent upon North Korea's movement toward denuclearization.
"The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization," Pence told the Post. "So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we'll talk."
Pence's comments come after White House officials said he would use his time at the Winter Olympics to deride notions of normalization between North and South Korea. North and South Korean athletes marched into the Olympic ceremonies under a unified flag, seen as a diplomatic breakthrough for the two countries.