BBC:-US President Donald Trump has said he would like to solve the North Korea crisis diplomatically, but that a “major, major conflict” was possible.
In an interview with Reuters he praised China’s President Xi Jinping for his handling of North Korea, calling him “a very good man” who loves his country.
Mr Trump also said it had been “very hard” for Kim Jong-un to take over North Korea at such a young age.
The UN Security Council is meeting to discuss North Korea on Friday.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said China has told the US it will impose sanctions on North Korea if it conducts further nuclear tests.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that tensions on the Korean peninsula risked getting out of control.
Shortly after being elected, Mr Trump accused China of not doing enough to rein in North Korea, and suggested the US could take unilateral action.
But in his wide-ranging interview inside the Oval Office, Mr Trump – who met Mr Xi earlier this month – said the Chinese president “certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death”.
“He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.
“He loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t,” he said.
Of Mr Kim, he said: “He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age.”
But he stressed he was “not giving him credit”, and added: “I hope he’s rational.”
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” said Mr Trump.
North Korea has carried out repeated missile tests in recent months and is threatening to conduct its sixth nuclear test.