Tillerson made the remark on the sidelines of meetings involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila, the Philippines.
"The best signal that North Korea could give us that they're prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches," the secretary told reporters there, according to a transcript released by his department. "We've not had an extended period of time where they have not taken some type of provocative action by launching ballistic missiles. So I think that would be the first and strongest signal they could send us is just stop, stop these missile launches."
|In this EPA photo, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks to reporters at a hotel in Manila, the Philippines, on Aug. 7, 2017. (Yonhap)|
When the conditions are right, the two sides can sit and discuss the future of North Korea "so that they feel secure and prosper economically," he added.
North Korea's foreign minister Ri Yong-ho was also in Manila to join the ASEAN Regional Forum.
He told the security-focused gathering that Pyongyang will under no circumstances negotiate over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"Neither shall we flinch an inch from the road to bolstering up the nuclear forces chosen by ourselves unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the US against the DPRK are fundamentally eliminated," he said, according to a separate transcript released by his delegation.
The heated exchange came after the UN Security Council unanimously adopted tough sanctions against North Korea for its two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month.
The US-led resolution calls for a ban on North Korean exports of coal, iron and seafood, depriving the communist regime of a third of its annual export revenue.
Tillerson said the US has other means of communication open to the North if it wants to express a desire to talk.
But he lauded the Security Council resolution as a message that there is "no daylight" in the international community's expectations that the defiant regime will take steps toward denuclearization. (Yonhap)