China has warned that conflict could break out “at any moment” over North Korea amid fears Pyongyang is preparing to launch a sixth nuclear test or more missiles in defiance of UN sanctions and stark warnings from the US.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the US and North Korea to take steps to prevent the situation on the Korean peninsula from going down “an irreversible route”.

He said: “We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not to let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” Xinhua, China’s official news agency reported

“If a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner. It is not the one who espouses harsher rhetoric or raises a bigger fist that will win.”

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USS Carl Vinson is steaming to waters off the Korean Peninsula as anticipation mounts that Kim Jong Un will stage another weapons test around the anniversary of the nation’s founder (AP)

Earlier, North Korea’s vice foreign minister blamed President Donald Trump for escalating tensions through his tweets and expansion of military exercises, saying the US was becoming “more vicious and more aggressive” under his leadership than it had been under President Barack Obama.

“We will go to war if they choose,” Han Song Ryol told the Associated Press.

“Whatever comes from US politicians, if their words are designed to overthrow the DPRK system and government, we will categorically reject them,” he said.

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He also said that despite demands from China to suspend weapons tests, North Korea would continue to build its nuclear arsenal in “quantity” and “quality”.

The US has sent an aircraft carrier to waters off the peninsula and is conducting its biggest-ever joint military exercises with South Korea.

China may also have deployed as many as 150,000 troops to the North Korea border on Sunday, as part of these exercises.

Pyongyang, meanwhile, recently launched a ballistic missile, and some experts say it could conduct another nuclear test at virtually any time.

At the end of last month US monitoring group 38 North claimed satellite images showed the regime was very close to carrying out a nuclear test, while foreign journalists in the region were warned to prepare for an “important event” ahead of North Korea’s biggest national holiday this Saturday.

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