North Korea said Monday that working-level talks with the United States are "expected to be held in a few weeks," but warned denuclearization negotiations would not move forward unless perceived threats to the political system under leader Kim Jong Un are eliminated.
Pyongyang hopes that the possible talks will be "a good meeting," a director general in charge of U.S. affairs at the nation's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The unnamed senior official added that "the discussion of denuclearization may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our development are clearly removed beyond all doubt."
Ensuring the continuation of the current political system led by the Kim family is a long-sought goal by North Korea.
"Whether the DPRK-U.S. negotiations will be a window for chance or an occasion to precipitate crisis is entirely up to the U.S.," the official said, referring to the country by its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Earlier this month, a North Korean senior diplomat suddenly extended an olive branch, saying Pyongyang is ready to hold dialogue with Washington in late September.
"We have willingness to sit with the U.S. side for comprehensive discussions of the issues we have so far taken up at the time and place to be agreed late in September," First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said in a statement carried by KCNA.
New York could be a possible venue for the working-level talks, with leaders from various nations scheduled to gather for the general debate of the U.N. General Assembly in late September, pundits say.
In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters following the release of Choe's statement, "We'll see what happens."
At their June 30 meeting in the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom, Kim and Trump agreed that Pyongyang and Washington would resume stalled negotiations within weeks, but such talks have yet to be held.
Instead, North Korea has continued to test its weapons technology in recent months. Earlier this month, it fired two projectiles believed to be short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan -- Pyongyang's eighth round of such launches since late July.
At their Feb. 27-28 summit in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, Kim and Trump fell short of bridging the gap between Washington's denuclearization demands and Pyongyang's calls for sanctions relief.
In a speech to the nation's legislature in April, Kim asked the United States to shift its policy on denuclearization negotiations by the end of this year, lambasting Washington for making what he claimed are one-sided demands.
At the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit in June 2018 in Singapore, Trump promised to provide security guarantees to Pyongyang in return for "complete" denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The United States and North Korea technically remain in a state of war as the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a cease-fire. The two countries have no diplomatic relations.