Tillerson described the regime as an "urgent threat" and said the United States wanted to exert "peaceful pressure" on Pyongyang on the condition the country gives up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
"We are trying to convey to the North Koreans, we are not your enemy, we are not your threat, but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us, and we have to respond," Tillerson told reporters at the State Department. "And we hope that at some point, they would begin to understand that and then we would like to sit and have a dialogue with them about the future that will give them the security they seek and the future economic prosperity for North Korea."
His comments come days after North Korea tested an improved ballistic missile with intercontinental range Friday. It was North Korea's second missile launch in less than a month.
In July, North Korea threatened a nuclear strike against the United States.
"Should the U.S. dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the U.S. with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time," the foreign ministry said. "The likes of [CIA Director Mike] Pompeo will bitterly experience the catastrophic and miserable consequences caused by having dared to shake their little fists at the supreme leadership."
"We certainly don't blame the Chinese for the situation in North Korea," Tillerson said. "Only the North Koreans are to blame for this situation."