The comments came amid an escalating war of words between North Korea and President Trump, who used extraordinary rhetoric Tuesday afternoon by warning Pyongyang that continued threats would be "met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before". "He's been pushing the world around for a long time".
Donald Trump claims he has renovated and modernised the country's nuclear arsenal, but experts say he's stretching the truth.
The North Korean military threatened to soon launch missiles into the Pacific Ocean near Guam, a USA island territory home to important military bases, in a show of force. The plans called for the missiles to land in the sea 30-40 km (18-25 miles) from Guam.
There are also 23,500 USA service members in Korea, plus 39,000 in Japan and 6,000 on Guam, which North Korea has threatened to obliterate in response to Trump. Trump praised China and Russian Federation for backing the sanctions, but pressed Beijing to do more.
But he once again suggested that he expected China to "do a lot more" to bring North Korea into line.
Still, Trump's tone was at odds with that of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said he did not believe "there is any imminent threat" to Guam or other U.S. targets, and expressed hope that diplomatic pressure would prevail in the crisis.
"Look, we have trade with China". It's not going to continue like that. "But if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade, a lot differently toward trade", he said.
REUTERS Major Jeff Landis,USMC /Naval Base Guam Handout File
If the missiles were actually launched at Guam - North Korean officials hope to drop them about 40 kilometers offshore - it would be the first time North Korean missiles landed so close to an American territory, and it would force the US military to decide if it would attempt to shoot them down.
"We would need to know that North Korea is taking serious and literal steps to denuclearizing in order for the United States to get to that point".
"Sure, we'll always consider negotiations".
Tensions have risen dramatically in the Korean Peninsula after North Korea tested intercontinental ballistic missile last month. "But I can tell you that what they've been doing and what they've been getting away with is a tragedy".
Diplomacy may still get Pyongyang to the table, but the immediate United States goal has to shift from denuclearization to avoiding the threat of all-out nuclear war. He said his previous "fire and fury" warning to Pyongyang might have been too mild.
Former US President Jimmy Carter rebuked officials in both nations over their threatening language.
On May 14 this year, North Korea test-fired a Hwasong-12, the reclusive country's new surface-to-surface liquid-fuel IRBM with a range of 5,000 kilometers.
French government spokesman Christophe Castaner said after a cabinet meeting that "the determination of the American president.[is] the same determination as any American president would have because they cannot accept that part of their territory could be the target of ballistic missile attacks".
Sebastian Gorka, one of Trump's top national security advisers, said earlier this week on BBC that Tillerson isn't in charge of defense strategy, and the idea that he "is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical".