U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry demanded on Friday that North Korea scrap an expected missile test and dial down its virulent rhetoric, AFP reported.
As Pyongyang aimed fresh nuclear threats at Japan, Kerry urged China to step in and said the North would never be accepted as a nuclear power.
Visiting Seoul to give full U.S. backing to military ally South Korea, Kerry mixed tough talk with more conciliatory comments about the prospects for a peaceful way out of a crisis that has sent inter-Korea tensions soaring.
In particular, he said Washington chose to "honor" the vision of South Korea's new President Park Geun-Hye, who was elected on a pledge of greater engagement with Pyongyang.
"We're prepared to work with conviction that relations between North and South can improve and they can improve very quickly," Kerry said, according to AFP.
"I think we have lowered our rhetoric significantly and we are attempting to find a way for reasonableness to prevail here," he added.
Park has made a series of statements in recent days hinting at a dialogue with Pyongyang.
The local Yonhap news agency quoted Park as telling ruling party officials Friday that the South should meet with the North and "listen to what North Korea thinks."
There was no indication what form such a meeting might take.
Many observers say the crisis that has engulfed the region since North Korea early this year staged a rocket launch and atomic test was manufactured by Pyongyang to try to force Washington into agreeing to direct talks.
Kerry made clear that a U.S.-North Korea dialogue was not currently on the table and stressed that any talks by any parties would require a change of course and tone from Pyongyang.
"The rhetoric that we are hearing from North Korea is simply unacceptable by any standards," Kerry told a news conference in Seoul alongside South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se.
His arrival coincided with a new commentary from the North's official Korean Central News Agency, which warned of Japan being "consumed in nuclear flames" should it get involved in any conflict on the peninsula.
Japan positioned Patriot missile batteries around Tokyo as a pre-emptive defensive measure after U.S. and South Korean intelligence reports suggested North Korea was preparing an imminent mid-range missile launch.
Kerry directly warned North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un that any such launch would be a "huge mistake."
The apocalyptic threats that have been flooding out of Pyongyang for the past month and a half were given extra menace by a U.S. military spy agency report that the North had a nuclear-armed ballistic missile.
President Barack Obama on Thursday urged North Korea to end its "belligerent approach", as American officials sought to downplay the leaked intelligence report.
Speaking at the White House, Obama said "nobody wants to see a conflict" with the North, but emphasized that the United States was ready to take "all necessary steps to protect its people" and defend its allies in the region.
"We both agree that now is the time for North Korea to end the kind of belligerent approach that they've been taking," Obama said, appearing by the side of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after talks in the Oval Office.
"It's important for North Korea, like every other country in the world, to observe basic rules and norms."
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)