North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said his country needs to prepare for both dialogue and confrontation with the US, but "especially to get fully prepared for confrontation".
North Korea had earlier snubbed efforts by President Joe Biden's administration to establish diplomatic relations.
Mr Kim's comments are one of the first signs that North Korea could be open to the possibility of talks with the US.
They were made at a meeting of senior leaders in Pyongyang.
The ruling Workers' Party central committee meeting which started this week in the capital Pyongyang also saw Mr Kim admitting the country was facing food shortages.
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Mr Kim said they "needed especially to get fully prepared for confrontation in order to protect the dignity of our state and its interests for independent development", as well as to guarantee a peaceful environment and North Korea's security, according to state media outlet KCNA.
He also said North Korea would "sharply and promptly" react to any developments and "concentrate efforts on taking stable control of the situation on the Korean peninsula".
Mr Kim's relationship with Mr Biden's administration has been fraught with tension.
A statement by Mr Biden which referred to North Korea as a "serious threat" to global security prompted an angry response from North Korea, which said the statement reflected Mr Biden's intent to "keep enforcing the hostile policy" towards North Korea.
Washington recently completed a review of its North Korea policy and said that the US would continue to aim for the eventual complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Mr Biden also promised an approach marked by diplomacy and deterrence.
The US State Department later elaborated on its new North Korea policy. Spokesman Jen Psaki said that "our policy will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience".
The US would instead pursue a "calibrated practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with" North Korea, she said, and would focus on making "practical progress".
Mr Kim had met Mr Biden's predecessor Donald Trump twice, but talks on denuclearisation eventually stalled.
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In January Mr Kim presided over a huge display of military equipment, in a show of strength held days before Mr Biden's inauguration as US President.
media captionKim Jong-un has been overseeing a huge military showcase broadcast by state media in North Korea