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North Korean flag Reuters

The White House reaffirmed on Monday that "now is not the time" to talk with North Korea, days after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged that the United States was directly communicating with North Korea on its nuclear and missile programs.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the only exception would be talks aimed at bringing home Americans detained by North Korea.

"There is a difference between talking and putting diplomatic pressure and we strongly support putting diplomatic pressure on North Korea which we're continuing to do. But now is not the time simply to have conversations with North Korea," she said, according to AFP.

Tillerson said on the weekend that U.S. officials are in exploratory contact with their North Korean counterparts, despite an escalating war of words between the two countries' leaders over Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programs.

The State Department later clarified there were no signs Pyongyang was interested in talks.

"North Korean officials have shown no indication that they are interested in or are ready for talks regarding denuclearization," department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

President Donald Trump later undercut his top diplomat, saying that negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear program would be a waste of time.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” he tweeted on Sunday, adding, “Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!”

Trump subsequently vowed that he would not fail as his predecessors did in trying to stop North Korea’s nuclear program.

“Being nice to Rocket Man hasn't worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won't fail,” Trump tweeted.

In a recent speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea if it threatens the U.S. or any of its allies, deriding Kim as "Rocket Man" and warning he is on a "suicide mission."

In response, North Korean's foreign minister said Trump had made an "irreversible mistake" and threatened the "entire U.S. mainland" with missiles.