A spokesman for North Korea's Foreign Ministry slammed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's recent talk of tougher sanctions, more pressure, and possible military action, and said the North would not be deterred in its nuclear program.
In recent days, Tillerson stressed that "all options are on the table" with North Korea, including pre-emptive military strikes - a shocking public position that could have been aimed at convincing China to pressure its ally into compliance, Boston University worldwide relations professor William Keylor said.
Washington wants China, the North's neighbor and main trading partner, to use its influence to rein in the weapons program.
Earlier Sunday, North Korean state media said the isolated regime had tested a powerful engine hailed by leader Kim Jong-Un as a "new birth" for its rocket industry, which experts view as cover for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Tillerson, meanwhile, gave his first sit-down interview since becoming secretary of state to the conservative-leaning Independent Journal Review's Erin McPike, who was the only journalist the State Department allowed to travel on the secretary's plane for the three-nation Asia trip.
"I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high and that things have reached a rather risky level", Tillerson said.
Relations have also been strained by China's fierce opposition to a USA anti-missile defense system being deployed in South Korea, and Trump's Twitter accusation on Friday that China was not doing enough to control its neighbor and historic ally Pyongyang.
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He said he had communicated with Mr Trump several times through telephone conversations and messages.
"We are both expecting a new era for constructive development", he said.
During Tillerson's meeting with Chinese President Xi on Sunday, the two discussed efforts to arrange a planned meeting between President Trump and Xi.
"There has been a narrative in the West suggesting that China holds the key to the North Korea nuclear issue". In return, North Korea has detonated nuclear weapons, and dramatically increased its launches of ballistic missiles to threaten America and our allies.
President Trump weighed in Friday by goading China over Twitter for not doing enough to help prevent its ally from "behaving very badly".
By not taking China's suggestion that the United States and South Korea should stop military drills in return for North Korea stopping its tests, and then all sides returning to talks, Washington was showing a level of inflexibility that was "really disappointing", it added.
He said he would work with China to "bring North Korea to a different place where we are hopeful we can begin a dialogue".
Beijing is also deeply suspicious of USA intentions toward self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, with Trump administration crafting a new arms package for the island that is bound to anger China.