The United States is willing to talk to North Korea, but only if those talks will lead to an end of the North Korean nuclear programme.
“We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearisation,” the White House said.
“In the meantime, the United States and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes are a dead end,” the statement continued.
South Korea responded to the US by saying the country should lower the threshold for North Korea talks.
“Recently, North Korea has shown it is open to actively engaging the United States in talks and the United States is talking about the importance of dialogue,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday.
“There is a need for the United States to lower the threshold for talks with North Korea and North Korea should show it is willing to denuclearise. It’s important the United States and North Korea sit down together quickly,” he added.
The US still wants South Korea to be part of a united front in dealing with what it sees as a potentially dangerous adversary.
Both the US and South Korean responses come a day after North Korean officials said they are willing to sit down with representatives from the US.
That invitation by North Korea was made during the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics, attended by two high-ranking North Korean delegates, Kim Yong-chol, a high-ranking party official, and Choe Kang-il, a diplomat in charge of relations between North Korea and the United States.
Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter, attended that ceremony for the US. However, according to several reports, she did not interact with the North Korean delegates.
During a meeting behind closed doors with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the North Korean envoys voiced their willingness to sit down with the US.
Al Jazeera correspondent Rob McBride said that despite the rapprochement by North Korea over the last few weeks, the country has not changed its stance on its nuclear programme.
“North Koreans have given no indication they are willing to any concessions on their missile or nuclear programmes,” McBride said.
“If talks are to proceed, the subject has to be addressed,” he said.
During their meeting with President Moon, the North Korean delegates also invited Moon to visit North Korea.
There is no indication yet of when Moon will travel to North Korea, but when he does, he will be the first leader to meet Kim Jong-un since Kim became the leader of North Korea seven years ago.
The invitation comes days after the United States announced it would implement new sanctions on North Korea, in what it calls the “heaviest sanctions ever” in an attempt to prevent North Korea from further developing its nuclear programme.
The measures – aimed at disrupting North Korean shipping companies and vessels – will heighten pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a US treasury department statement said.
Those new sanctions were heavily criticised by North Korea, which called them “an act of war”.