The remarks, made in a meeting with South Korea’s special presidential envoy Hong Seok-hyun, is the latest in a series of signs that the US may be moving toward dialogue and engagement with Pyongyang after months of exchanging saber-rattling and harsh rhetoric.
"The most impressive thing that I heard (from Tillerson) was that sanctions and pressure are not by themselves aimed at harassing North Korea, but are designed to create an opportunity for North Korea’s development through opening its doors and scrapping its nuclear programme," Hong said.
Tillerson was also quoted as saying he hopes the North will take chances and "trust the US". He also said there are many companies willing to invest in North Korea and if the North makes the right choice, it will be good for its development, according to Hong.
A member of Hong’s delegation, who requested anonymity, also quoted Tillerson as saying that the US meant it when it said it seeks no regime change, no invasion of the North and it will guarantee the North’s system.
Tillerson also said that the US sends its messages only through public channels and the North shouldn’t inquire about US intentions "through back channels," according to the official.
Should the North want talks with the US, Tillerson said that Pyongyang should refrain from conducting nuclear or missile tests for a certain period of time so as to create the right atmosphere for talks, the official said.
Hong arrived in Washington on Wednesday and paid a visit to President Donald Trump at the White House. During the meeting, Trump expressed hope for working closely together with Moon to strengthen the alliance and resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, Hong said.
Trump also told the delegation that he is willing to make peace through engagement with Pyongyang if conditions are right, though he wouldn’t hold talks for the sake of talks.
Hong also held a separate one-on-one meeting with National Security Advisor H R McMaster to discuss pending issues between the two countries, including nuclear and missile tensions with North Korea and the deployment of the US THAAD missile defence system.