The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has held talks with the North Korean Foreign Minister, Paek Nam-sun.
North Korea wants talks to go beyond nuclear issues
The two men met for 20 minutes on the sidelines of a regional meeting in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
It was the highest-level talks between the two countries since the crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions erupted two years ago.
A third round of six-nation talks on the crisis ended in Beijing last week without resolving the deadlock.
Mr Powell said after Friday's talks that the two sides had used the opportunity to reaffirm their positions.
He said the North Koreans had confirmed they wanted to continue to talk about resolving the nuclear stand-off, but he warned that progress would not be speedy.
"These are difficult negotiations, it just doesn't happen overnight. There's a great deal of mistrust between the United States and North Korea," he said.
A statement released shortly afterwards by North Korea seemed cautious, says the BBC's State Department correspondent Jill McGivering.
"If the United States is of the position to improve the bilateral relations, the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] also will not regard the US as permanent enemy," the statement quoted Mr Paek as saying.
"The principle of simultaneous actions is the only way to resolving this issue under the present conditions in which there is no trust between the DPRK and the US," it said.
The US has said North Korea could be given oil aid to address its energy shortage if it first promises to freeze and then begins dismantling its nuclear programmes.
But analysts say the prospects for real progress look bleak, and both sides have pointed to the differences between their positions.
Our correspondent says Pyongyang may also be waiting for the outcome of November's US elections, with the expectation, if there were a new presidency, it might produce fresh momentum for the negotiations.