The United States is in “direct contact” with North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Saturday. Tillerson said Washington was “probing” possibility of talks with Pyongyang, “so stay tuned”, The New York Times reported.

“We have lines of communications to Pyongyang,” he said during a trip to China. “We are not in a dark situation.”

North Korea and the US have been engaged in a heated war of words in recent months, but this is the first time the Donald Trump administration has revealed that lines of communication were open between the two nations.

On September 19, in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, Trump had called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “rocket man” on a “suicide mission,” prompting Kim to warn the US president that he would “pay dearly” for his comments.

Tillerson said the focus was on reducing the threats being exchanged in recent weeks between Kim and Trump, The New York Times report said. During his visit to China, Tillerson met President Xi Jinping [pictured above] and other officials and pushed them to implement sanctions on North Korea.

North Korea tensions

Tensions over the Korean peninsula has escalated as the North has stepped up the development of weapons, testing a string of missiles this year. North Korean state media had on September 3 claimed that they had successfully conducted a hydrogen bomb test. This was the country’s sixth underground nuclear test since 2006.