"Let's just meet and we can talk about the weather if you want".
North Korea has claimed its new missile is capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to all parts of the US mainland.
Tillerson also disclosed that the United States had been talking to China about how to secure North Korea's nuclear weapons in the event of a collapse of the government in Pyongyang, and that Beijing had been given assurances that if U.S. forces had to cross into North Korea, they would pull back across the border into South Korea.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, right, and United Nations undersecretary-general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman shake hands at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, North Korea Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.
The United States had previously held that they would not engage in talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) unless certain conditions were met. President Trump has held that North Korea must agree to denuclearization before talks could commence, reiterating this position in November's diplomatic visit to Asia.
"We are ready to have the first meeting without precondition", Tillerson said.
Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman of Seoul's Unification Ministry, said of Tillerson's comments that Seoul wishes for talks to "happen soon" if they contribute to the goal of finding a peaceful solution for the North Korean nuclear problem. Lawmakers of both parties, former secretaries of state, former national security officials and retired foreign service officers, as well as diplomats resigning in anger, say the administration's approach to the State Department is undermining U.S. national security and weakening diplomacy at a time of deepening worldwide crises.
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Ahead of Tillerson's speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to develop more nuclear weapons while personally decorating scientists and officials who contributed to the development of Pyongyang's most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile, according to North Korean state media on Wednesday. And then we can begin to lay out a map, a roadmap, of what we might be willing to work towards...
"It's not realistic to say we are only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program", Tillerson said in an address to the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. They've too much invested in it. North Korea says such drills are preparations for invasion.
Feltman, a veteran American diplomat who is the United Nations undersecretary-general for political affairs, said he told the North Koreans "they need to signal that they're willing now to go in a different direction, to start some kind of engagement, to start talking about talks".
"But they did not offer any time of commitment to us at that point".
Still, the final goal for the administration has not changed, with the ultimate objective continuing to be the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula - and Tillerson said he remains optimistic diplomatic efforts can achieve that.
Tillerson coupled the public invitation to Pyongyang with an update on the global pressure campaign he has helped build that has squeezed North Korean revenues from coal, textiles and forced labor, winnowed down its oil imports, and left it increasingly isolated on the diplomatic stage as countries across the globe expel its diplomats.
"That's not the path we want to take", Tillerson said.