Premier Li Keqiang warned Pyongyang to stop being provocative yesterday as China and the US renewed their commitment to ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.
His remarks, which stopped short of mentioning North Korea or leader Kim Jong-un by name, came as US Secretary of State John Kerry met top leaders for talks on a range of issues.
"All sides must bear responsibility for maintaining regional peace and stability, and bear the consequences," Li told Kerry.
"Provocations on the Korean Peninsula will harm the interests of all sides and it is the same as picking up a rock to drop it on one's feet."
Kerry said Washington and Beijing "both call on North Korea to refrain from any provocative steps and that obviously refers to any future missile shoot".
Chinese leaders pledged to work closely with Washington to ease the volatile situation, in which North Korea has repeatedly threatened nuclear strikes on US territory. Beijing, however, did not detail concrete measures. And, in a sign that it will refrain from any harsh action that could undermine Kim's regime, officials told Kerry the crisis should be resolved through dialogue.
Kerry also met President Xi Jinping and told him his visit, initially planned as an introductory session, had come at a "critical time" for tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Before dining with State Councillor Yang Jiechi , whose portfolio covers foreign affairs, Kerry said the two nations were "determined" to remove nuclear weapons from Korea. Xi did not specifically mention the crisis, but said the two nations should enhance co-ordination to tackle regional and international issues. Yang said China was committed to maintaining peace on the peninsula.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi made similar remarks, calling on all parties to refrain from increasing the tensions.
Cai Jian , a professor of Korean studies at Fudan University, said Li was telling Pyongyang to exercise restraint.
He noted that Li's remarks came after Xi told an international forum last week that no country should be allowed to cause chaos for selfish gain.
"China's attitude towards North Korea is getting clearer with the tougher remarks by top leaders," he said. "Beijing is certainly aware that the recent moves by Pyongyang have a significant impact on China." But Cai said Beijing was unlikely to take more drastic measures.
One possible course would be for China to "more seriously" implement UN sanctions against Pyongyang imposed after its third nuclear test in February.
"That will make Pyongyang feel the heat," Cai said.