As many as 20 countries agreed on Tuesday to consider tougher sanctions against North Korea, to persuade the country to give up its nuclear weapons programme, Reuters reported. United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Pyongyang of a military response if it did not accept negotiations.

The United States and Canada co-hosted in Vancouver a meeting of countries which supported South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War. The countries vowed to support renewed dialogue between the two Koreas “in hopes that it leads to sustained easing of tensions”. They said that a diplomatic solution to the crisis was both “essential and possible.”

The countries also agreed to ensure that United Nations sanctions already in place should be fully applied, and that they would “consider and take steps to impose unilateral sanctions and further diplomatic actions that go beyond those required by UN Security Council resolutions.”

Though he threatened North Korea with military action, Tillerson refused to comment on the possibility of a pre-emptive strike. “I am not going to comment on issues that are yet to be decided among the National Security Council or the US president,” he told a closed press conference.

But he warned that the North Korean threat was growing. “We all need to be very sober and clear-eyed about the current situation,” Tillerson said. “We have to recognize that the threat is growing and if North Korea does not chose the pathway of engagement, discussion, negotiation, then they themselves will trigger an option.” He said it was up to Pyongyang to indicate its willingness for talks.

Russia and China did not attend the meeting, but Tillerson said the participants had agreed that Moscow and Beijing too must fully implement sanctions against Pyongyang.