Russia on Wednesday blocked UN Security Council condemnation of North Korea's latest missile test even though China had backed the strongly-worded statement put forward by the United States, diplomats said.
The proposed statement seen by AFP would have demanded that North Korea "conduct no further nuclear tests" and halt missile launches after Pyongyang carried out a failed test on Sunday.
Russia wanted to include language contained in a previous statement stressing the need to achieve a solution through dialogue, according to council diplomats.
Last month, the council was united in strongly condemning the launch of three missiles and expressed serious concern over Pyongyang's "increasingly destabilizing behavior."
In the proposed statement, council members expressed "their utmost concern" over North Korea's "highly destabilizing behavior" and again threatened to take "further significant measures."
Diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity appeared surprised that Russia would block condemnation that China, Pyongyang's ally, had been willing to support.
The disagreement with Russia over the stronger language came ahead of a Security Council ministerial meeting next week on North Korea that will be chaired by US Secretary of States Rex Tillerson.
- US 'not trying to pick a fight' -
US Ambassador Nikki Haley separately stressed that the onus was on North Korea to prevent an escalation.
"It's important that North Korea know we are not trying to pick a fight, so don't try to give us one," Haley told reporters.
"We have said it as clearly as we can possibly say it. The ball is in their court. They shouldn't try to play it at this point."
US Vice President Mike Pence earlier vowed that the United States would counter any North Korean attack with an "overwhelming and effective" response.
"North Korea is the most dangerous and urgent threat to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific," Pence said on the deck of an American aircraft carried docked in Japan.
"We will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres separately said "everything" must be done to confront the threat from North Korea and ensure that its missile and nuclear programs do not pose an international threat.
Guterres said countries "on the frontline" of the crisis -- China, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Russia -- must spare no effort to prevent a military buildup from Pyongyang.
"We believe that it is absolutely essential... that everybody is involved in order to make sure that everything is done so that the threat represented by the development in relation to missiles and in relation to nuclear capability -- not become a threat to the international community," said Guterres.
"We fully support the efforts of all states in order to make sure that North Korea does not acquire the capacities that would become a threat not only to the region but in a wider area of the world," he told reporters.