Top US and South Korean officials have agreed to try to convince North Korea to return to talks on its nuclear program, which Pyongyang has insisted it won't do in protest at what it calls US hostility.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is in Seoul as part of her regional tour that will take her to China this weekend.
She'll be the highest-ranking US official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office in January.
On Thursday, she met South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong for talks on North Korea, the military alliance between Seoul and Washington and other regional issues.
The two decided to continue close consultations to get North Korea to return to talks and agreed dialogue is essential to the complete denuclearisation and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, Chung's ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
US-led diplomacy aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear program in return for economic and political benefits has been stalled.
A major sticking point is North Korea's calls for the United States to abandon policy Pyongyang considers hostile - an apparent reference to punishing US-led sanctions imposed over its past nuclear and missile tests.
Last month, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un dismissed prospects for a restart of the nuclear diplomacy, saying US expectations of talks would "plunge them into a greater disappointment."
After her statement, Kim's foreign minister said North Korea wasn't even considering the possibility of any contact with the Americans, noting it "would get us nowhere, only taking up precious time."
The blunt back-to-back statements have dampened hopes that were raised when Kim said North Korea was ready for both dialogue and confrontation - though more for confrontation.
Some experts say North Korea will likely find the urgent need to return to talks if its current pandemic-related economic difficulties further worsen.
Australian Associated Press