China has called on North Korea to stop testing ballistic missiles like the four that landed in the Sea of Japan earlier this week.
Beijing also said the US and South Korea should end the joint military drills that anger Pyongyang and seek talks instead.
North Korean state media said the launches of the four banned missiles were training for an attack on a US base in Japan.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said the North’s tests and the joint drills were causing tension to increase like two “accelerating trains coming toward each other”.
Mr Wang asked: “Are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision?
“China’s suggestion is, as a first step, for North Korea to suspend nuclear and missile activities, and for the US and South Korea to also suspend large-scale military drills,” he added.
US policy has for many years been that the North must abandon its nuclear weapons programme before full discussions can take place.
Donald Trump’s new administration reacted to the latest missile launches by starting to deploy its THAAD anti-missile system to its ally South Korea.
China objects to THAAD as its radar can penetrate into its territory and its says its presence on the Korean peninsula upsets the regional security balance.
Mr Wang suggested that the North’s suspension of its nuclear and missile activities and the US and South Korea’s halting of their military exercises could help defuse the growing crisis.
He said the “suspension-for-suspension can help us break out of the security dilemma and bring the parties back to the negotiating table”.
“Holding nuclear weapons won’t bring security, using military force won’t be a way out. There remains a chance of resuming talks, there is still hope for peace,” he added.
China is North Korea’s largest trading partner and holds some influence over Pyongyang.
It has already suspended all coal imports from North Korea for the rest of the year.