Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shakes hands with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last April in Moscow. Photo: AFP / Alexander Nemenov

Korea JoongAng Daily reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Pyongyang wants to hold talks with Washington and is interested in security guarantees.

Lavrov reportedly disclosed his conversation with Tillerson to reporters after the two officials held bilateral talks Thursday in Vienna. The pair were in Austria to attend an annual Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ministerial council meeting.

The top Russian diplomat also informed Tillerson that Russia is ready to play a role in direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

“We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russia’s Interfax news agency. “We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations.”

Russia, according to Lavrov, also repeated a proposal that the US and South Korea cease joint military exercises in return for North Korea halting its nuclear and missile tests to clear the way for negotiations with Pyongyang.

The proposal is in line with a joint Chinese and Russian initiative in July that called for a so-called “freeze-for-freeze” agreement to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Washington has so far rebuffed the notion of a “freeze-for-freeze” agreement.