The Latest: US: 'potentially positive symbols' from N. Korea

Visitors pose in front of ribbons placed on a barbed wire fence with messages wishing for the reunification of the two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Wednesday, March 7, 2018. The meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean envoys marked the first time South Korean officials have met with the young North Korean leader in person since he took power after his dictator father's death in late 2011. It's the latest sign that the Koreas are trying to mend ties after one of the tensest years in a region that seems to be permanently on edge. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - The Latest on relations between South Korea and North Korea (all times local):

8 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says there are "potentially positive symbols" coming from North Korea but that "we're a long ways from negotiations."

Tillerson says South Korea is keeping the U.S. informed about its discussions with North Korea. He says the U.S. is providing South Korea with input also.

He says the U.S. must be "very clear-eyed" and realistic. He says the first step is talks, not negotiations. Tillerson says there should be "talks about talks."

He says he doesn't yet know if the conditions are right for negotiations over the North's nuclear program.

Tillerson spoke in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during a joint news conference with the Ethiopian foreign minister.


2 p.m.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Japan's policy of applying pressure to North Korea does not change just because its leadership is now open to dialogue.

Abe told a parliamentary session Thursday that North Korea should not be rewarded just for agreeing to talks. "We should not ease our stance, for instance relax sanctions, just because North Korea agreed to have a dialogue."

Abe said he will be briefed next week by one of South Korean envoys who met with leader Kim Jong Un recently. Seoul officials said after their visit that North Korea offered talks with the United States over normalizing ties and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.


11:30 a.m.

China says its proposal for a "dual suspension" of North Korean nuclear tests in return for a halt to war games by South Korea and the U.S. has proven successful.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday told reporters that the suspension of such activities during the recent Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, showed that China's approach "was the right prescription for the problem and created basic conditions for the improvement of inter-Korean relations."

Wang said the Korean Peninsula issue has "finally taken an important step in the right direction." He said China was now encouraging follow-up measures and called for the U.S. to join in the dialogue "sooner rather than later."

Wang said Pyongyang's security concerns should be addressed in return for denuclearization.


10:30 a.m.

South Korea's president says many "critical moments" still lie ahead to end the nuclear crisis despite North Korea's recent outreach to Seoul and Washington.

Moon Jae-in spoke on Thursday morning before two senior Seoul officials were to head to the United States to brief officials about the outcome of their recent visit to North Korea.

The Seoul officials said North Korea offered talks with the United States over normalizing ties and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Seoul said the North also agreed to suspend nuclear and missile tests during such future talks.

Some experts question how sincere North Korea is about its reported offers.

Moon says there are "many critical moments that we still have to go through before reaching the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a permanent peace."

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