Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, last night offered to begin talks with North Korea without any prior conditions in what appeared to be a softening of America's stance toward Pyongyang.
According to Britain's Daily Telegraph, the US has previously demanded that Kim Jong-un's rogue regime demonstrate a willingness to consider giving up their nuclear programme before talks.
But Mr Tillerson, speaking in Washington, said: "We're ready to have the first meeting without preconditions."
He added: "Let's just meet and let's talk about the weather if you want, and talk about whether it's going to be a square table or a round table if that's what you're excited about.
"Then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards. We're ready to talk any time they'd like to talk."
Donald Trump has previously accused Mr Tillerson, his top diplomat, of "wasting time trying to negotiate" with North Korea.
The White House later issued an ambiguous statement that left unclear whether the US President, who has also threatened to respond with "fire and fury" if North Korea threatens US interests, had given his approval for the speech
"The president's views on North Korea have not changed," the White House said. "North Korea is acting in an unsafe way. ... North Korea's actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea."
Mr Tillerson added: "I will continue our diplomatic efforts until the first bomb drops.
"I am also confident that [Defence] Secretary Mattis will be successful if it ends up being his turn."
North Korea, meanwhile, showed little sign of reining in its weapons programme.
In a speech to workers behind the recent test of a new long-range missile, Mr Kim declared his country "will victoriously advance and leap as the strongest nuclear power … in the world".
Mr Tillerson's comments came as a senior UN official returning from Pyongyang said that North Korean officials had told him it was important to prevent war but offered no concrete proposal for talks.
"They agreed that it was important to prevent war," Jeffrey Feltman, the UN's political affairs chief, told reporters after briefing the Security Council on his trip.
Mr Feltman met with North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho and Vice-Foreign Minister Pak Myong-Kuk during his visit to Pyongyang over the weekend - the first by a high-ranking UN official since 2011.
No follow up meeting was agreed during the talks, but Feltman said he told the North Koreans that his visit should be seen as "only the beginning" of a new exchange.
"They listened seriously to our arguments," said Feltman, though acknowledging that "they did not offer any type of commitment to us at that point."
"I think they have to reflect on what we said with their own leadership," he added.
The UN Under-Secretary-General for political affairs said he urged Pyongyang to "signal that it was prepared to consider engagement" with world powers and that the United Nations could help.
"Time will tell what was the impact of our discussions, but I think we've left the door ajar," he said.
"I fervently hope that the door to a negotiated solution will now be opened wide."