President Donald Trump says US military action against North Korea is "not our first choice" but added "we'll see what happens".
His latest comments were a step back from those he made last month where he threatened "fire and fury" against the Pyongyang regime.
Tensions between the two countries escalated after North Korea claimed last Sunday it had detonated a hydrogen bomb - its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date.
The regime said the test was a "perfect success" and the bomb was designed to be mounted on its newly-developed intercontinental ballistic missile.
The US, which has accused dictator Kim Jong Un of "begging for war", is planning to draw up tougher new sanctions against the North, including an oil embargo, in a UN resolution which could be voted on by the Security Council in days.
Mr Trump has also urged China, which is the North's main trading partner and provides much of its oil, to put more pressure on Kim to limit his controversial nuclear programme.
The US leader told reporters he has had a "strong" and "frank" phone conversation with China's President Xi Jinping about North Korea and said neither of them would put up with the rogue nation's provocative actions.
The White House said both leaders were committed to taking "further action" aimed at "denuclearising" the Korean peninsula.
Mr Trump did not rule out military strikes against Kim's secretive state, but indicated other options for pressure would come first.
He said: "President Xi would like to do something. We'll see whether or not he can do it. But we will not be putting up with what's happening in North Korea."
He added: "I believe that President Xi agrees with me 100%. We had a very, very frank and very strong phone call."
President Xi told his US counterpart that Beijing remains committed to stopping the North's nuclear ambitions and maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
:: Sanctions on North Korea are 'useless' - Putin
Sky's Washington Correspondent Mark Austin said: "China fears tough sanctions could bring down the Kim regime and that would lead to chaos on its border.
"It's going to be very hard for Donald Trump to get China on side. There is no sign yet that they will back really tough sanctions."
Washington has rejected China's proposal for a freeze on the North's nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a suspension of US-South Korea military drills.
:: Mark Austin: Big threats from Trump benefit Kim Jong Un
A report in South Korea on Tuesday claimed Kim's regime was seen moving what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile towards its west coast .
Analysts say it is most likely the secretive state will carry out its next "provocative" act on or around 9 September when the country celebrates its founding day.
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