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U.S.: We’d talk with North Korea but need them to show interest first

N. Korea & U.S. diplomacy?

People in Seoul are used to living with the North Korean threat, but many are worried they could pay the price if the verbal sparring match between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leads to war.

Protestors took to the streets of Seoul on Tuesday, demanding a peaceful solution to the North Korean conflict and calling on President Trump to tone down his rhetoric.

Now, the U.S. and North Korea may be signalling that they want to talk more constructively, while China is telling the two countries to "hit the brakes" on threatening words and actions in a sign of growing concern over the standoff on the part of Pyongyang's only major ally.

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Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that the two countries should work together to contain tensions and permit no one to "stir up an incident on their doorstep," according to a statement posted on the Chinese foreign ministry's website.

"The most important task at hand is for the U.S. and North Korea to 'hit the brakes' on their mutual needling of each other with words and actions, to lower the temperature of the tense situation and prevent the emergence of an 'August crisis,'" Wang was quoted as saying in the Tuesday conversation.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the Trump administration was interested in opening a dialogue with North Korea, but that it was waiting for a signal of similar interest from Pyongyang.

If North Korea were to end its seemingly endless barrage of missile tests, Washington said it would be willing to negotiate, especially after Kim Jong Un decided to hold off on launching missiles towards Guam.

"We would like to have talks with him when the time is right," State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert says. "When they show that they are serious, serious about an effort to move toward denuclearization, and we have not seen that yet."

All sides seemed to be acknowledging the obvious: A war on the Korean peninsula would be catastrophic, with South Korean President Moon Jae In saying he simply wouldn't allow it.

The U.S. seemed to be backing down from its demand that North Korea abandon its weapons program entirely before talks could begin, saying instead that North Korea needed to freeze its weapons testing for a period of time.

"There was some sort of method to recognize Kim Jong Un's security concerns and meet him halfway," says John Delury, a professor of international studies at Yonsei University in Seoul.

"I don't think the kind of relationship the North Koreans want is screaming back and forth between them and the Americans, but they'll take that. They can do that. I think Kim Jong Un has more ambitions. I think things like a summit with Donald Trump and the selfie that the world is waiting for between these two extraordinary figures is the kind of thing they'd be interested in," Delury continues.

China and Russia floated a plan by which North Korea would freeze its missile tests if the United States and South Korea freezed their military exercises. However, the U.S. government said that option was a non-starter and planned to move ahead with joint exercises in South Korea next week.