Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said Thursday that China would support the United Nations taking further measures against North Korea following its recent nuclear test.
However it remained unclear whether Beijing, the North's key ally, would be willing to back, or enforce, new sanctions at the UN Security Council, where it is a veto-wielding permanent member.
"Given the new developments on the Korean peninsula, China agrees that the UN Security Council should respond further by taking necessary measures," he told a press conference in Beijing.
"We believe that sanctions and pressure are only half of the key to resolving the issue. The other half is dialogue and negotiation," Wang added.
The comments came after Pyongyang on Sunday triggered global alarm with its most powerful nuclear blast to date, claiming to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.
China, which is the North's biggest diplomatic and economic supporter, is seen as key to efforts to convince Pyongyang to abandon its weapons programme.
Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang clarified later on Thursday that China would support the consensus of the UN Security Council.
"We support the Security Council in making further reactions and taking necessary measures," he said, adding "we hope to resolve this issue through dialogue and consultation".
The US has accused North Korea of "begging for war" and repeatedly urged China to step up pressure against its neighbour.
But in a phone call with US President Donald Trump Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China remains firm in its wish to resolve the issue through talks leading to a peaceful settlement.
Washington has rejected China's proposal for a freeze on North Korea's nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a suspension of US-South Korea military drills.
But Trump, who has recently been waging a fiery war of words with Kim, on Wednesday insisted that military action against North Korea's nuclear program is not his first choice and pushed for a diplomatic option.
On Wednesday, the US submitted a resolution to the UN Security Council that would slap an oil embargo on North Korea and freeze the assets of leader Kim Jong-Un, setting up a potential clash with China.
Beijing has repeatedly urged all parties to avoid rhetoric and actions that could inflame tensions, and called for a halt in annual military exercises between the US and South Korea.
But China's defence ministry on Wednesday said a recent Chinese military drill in seas adjacent to the Korean peninsula was a routine exercise that was not targeted at any country.