In an extremely rare gesture, North Korea has offered to make a compromise with regards to its nuclear programme, suggesting that it would scale down its activities if the US agreed to suspend its joint military drills with South Korea in the region.

Taking a stand far from its conventional rhetoric on such matters, North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong offered to halt Pyongyang's defiant nuclear tests while speaking in the US. Ri told the Associated Press in an interview: "Stop the nuclear war exercises in the Korean Peninsula, then we should also cease our nuclear tests."

"If we continue on this path of confrontation, this will lead to very catastrophic results, not only for the two countries but for the whole entire world as well," he said.

Earlier, the top diplomat had warned of using "nukes for nukes" while speaking in New York. However, it is unclear whether Ri's comments have the consent of the Kim Jong-un regime, which is usually wary of coming across as "caving in" to Western pressure.

Ri's comments, made via an interpreter, also coincided with the launch of a submarine-based ballistic missile by the North, off its east coast.

Tensions in the Korean peninsula have been constantly high ever since the reclusive nation carried out its fourth nuclear test in January and followed it up with a long-range rocket launch. The situation has been made volatile by frequent missile launches in the past few weeks.

Responding to Ri, US State Department spokesperson Katina Adams, who is in charge of Asia and Pacific affairs, said: "We call again on North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations."