The top USA diplomat also said broad sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program "are beginning to have an effect".
While Mr Tillerson and Chinese leaders didn't mention North Korea in public remarks, he did raise the issue behind closed doors, according to a senior State Department official who asked not to be identified.
Tillerson had on Saturday raised hopes for a possible dialogue with the reclusive regime, speaking of direct lines of communication with North Korea in a bid to "calm things down" after months of escalating rhetoric over Pyongyang's reckless nuclear and missile push.More news: Thomas-Fowler, Reed-Spieth lift United States at Presidents Cup
Trump's tweets on Sunday seem to directly counter Tillerson's stated goal to use direct communication to lower tension between the two hostile nations.
"We're probing, so stay tuned", Tillerson had told the U.S. media in Beijing, adding: "We ask, 'Would you like to talk?' We have lines of communications to Pyongyang - we're not in a dark situation, a blackout". "Whether through diplomacy or force is up to the regime @StateDept".
"We are probing. We have lines of communication with Pyongyang", AFP quoted the USA diplomat as saying. "There is nearly no one aligning with North Korea on this nuclear program of theirs".
The U.S. -North Korea talks, if held, would mark the first of their kind since the new U.S. leader took office in February and the first since October 2016.
In a meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Tillerson said "we are still waiting" for North Korea to show it's ready to have a serious conversation about denuclearization, the official said.More news: US Intercept of NK ICBM Would Be Over Russia
Trump ramped up his rhetoric against North Korea when the United Nations General Assembly convened on September 23, saying that "rocket man" Kim Jong Un was on a "suicide mission", and that if he did not back down, the USA would "have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea". But we have to assume that Tillerson has gotten a lot of advice from the Chinese about toning down the rhetoric and looking for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
The official also said to the extent that diplomatic channels exist between Washington and Pyongyang, they are aimed at securing the return of Americans detained by North Korea.
"At present it's an impasse, neither the US nor North Korea dares to initiate a war despite fierce rhetoric", Shi said.
Kim responded by saying he would "surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged United States dotard with fire".
As China takes a tougher stance, North Korea appears to be looking to Russian Federation for support.More news: Alex Iwobi 'not good enough' despite goal for Arsenal, says Arsene Wenger
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