The United States is keeping up the pressure on North Korea, warning that "all options (are) on the table", on the day that Pyongyang launched a failed missile test in defiance of warnings from the international community.
US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said yesterday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "has demonstrated his brutality", and that the US is working with its allies and Beijing to "develop a range of options on North Korea".
He told ABC News: "I think there is an international consensus now - including the Chinese and the Chinese leadership - that this is a situation that just can't continue."
Pyongyang's missile launch - which fizzled out in seconds - also drew condemnation from its neighbours. Japan lodged a diplomatic protest, while South Korea warned of serious punitive action if more provocations follow.
The missile was fired early yesterday from a site near Sinpo on the eastern coast just hours before US Vice-President Mike Pence arrived in Seoul as part of an Asia tour, and a day after Pyongyang held a military parade and unveiled what appeared to be new intercontinental ballistic missiles to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il Sung.
China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi spoke with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after the missile test, said China's official Xinhua news agency, but no details were given.
Tensions in the Korean peninsula have escalated in recent weeks, with US President Donald Trump threatening unilateral action if China does not do more to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile tests. A US naval strike team led by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is expected to arrive this week in waters off the Korean peninsula.
North Korea, in response, has claimed it is prepared for "all-out war" if the US were to strike.
Analysts said the timing of North Korea's latest missile test - which follows a failed attempt on March 22 - is an act of deliberate defiance.
"North Korea was expressing its unyielding stance and its refusal to give in to demands of China and the US and other countries for it to stop its nuclear and missile tests," said security analyst Wang Xiangsui of China's Beihang University. He added that "China definitely opposes such an act".
Dr Bong Young Shik of Yonsei University's Institute for North Korean Studies said the missile test was an extension of North Korea's military parade and a carefully calibrated move to "keep the delicate balance between registering its anger and opposition to the US and at the same time keeping the escalation of tension at a manageable level".
"But it was very embarrassing for North Korean leaders that the missile exploded immediately after the launch," he said.
South Korean political parties have denounced the missile launch, with the liberal Democratic Party calling it a "reckless, incomprehensible provocation", while the conservative Liberty Korea Party warned of a crisis if tension escalates.
Mr Pence will discuss the North Korea issue with leaders in Japan and South Korea on his Asia tour this week, which includes visits to Indonesia and Australia.
• Additional reporting by China Bureau Chief Goh Sui Noi in Beijing