China has again urged calm as Russia offers to facilitate talks after North Korea said US-South Korean military exercises made war inevitable.
China, North Korea's neighbour and lone major ally, has again urged calm and says war is not the answer as Pyongyang said military drills involving the US and South Korean forces made war "an established fact".
"We hope all relevant parties can maintain calm and restraint and take steps to alleviate tensions and not provoke each other," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
"The outbreak of war is not in any side's interest. The ones that will suffer the most are ordinary people."
China's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Zheng Zeguang was to meet Matt Pottinger, the head of Asian affairs at the White House's National Security Council, on Thursday to discuss North Korea and trade, a senior US official said.
Meanwhile Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said North Korea wants direct talks with the US to seek guarantees on its security, something Moscow was ready to facilitate.
Lavrov said he had passed on Pyongyang's desire for direct talks to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when the two met on the sidelines of a conference in Vienna on Thursday.
"We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security. We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations," Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.
Washington has said it remains open to talks if North Korea demonstrates it is serious about giving up its nuclear weapons but that its recent activities showed it was not.
Two American B-1B heavy bombers joined large-scale combat drills over South Korea in the annual US-South Korean "Vigilant Ace" exercises on Thursday.
They come a week after North Korea tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile to date, which it says can reach all of the US.
North Korea's foreign ministry blamed the drills and "confrontational warmongering" by US officials for making war inevitable.
"The remaining question now is: when will the war break out?" it said in a statement carried by North Korea's official KCNA news agency.
"We do not wish for a war but shall not hide from it."