European leaders, whose summer holidays had already been interrupted by political uncertainty, and who are usually occupied by the threat from a resurgent Russia, were focused on the Korean Peninsula.
Ms. Merkel said diplomacy offered the only way out of the crisis. She did not single out Mr. Trump — with whom she has had a frosty relationship — for criticism, but she made clear that his language was not helpful.
“Germany will be intensively involved in any possible nonmilitary solutions, but I consider an escalation of words to be the wrong answer,” she said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Friday denied reports on state-controlled media that air defense units in the Russian Far East had been placed on high alert. Russia shares a short border with North Korea, near Vladivostok, a Pacific port city.
Speaking at a youth forum east of Moscow, Mr. Lavrov, the foreign minister, said Moscow was “very worried” by fiery declarations in Washington and Pyongyang.
“Talk of the need to carry out a pre-emptive strike at North Korea, Pyongyang’s talk of the need to strike at Guam island at the U.S. military base, this has been continual, and we are very worried by this,” Mr. Lavrov said.
He said that Russia, which last weekend joined the United States and China in voting at the United Nations Security Council for severe new sanctions against Pyongyang, did not accept North Korea as a nuclear power. But he said it was up to the United States, as the more powerful country, to take the first step.
“I believe when it actually comes to a fight, the one that is stronger and smarter should take the first step away from the dangerous line,” Mr. Lavrov said. “Together with China, Russia offered a very reasonable plan providing for the ‘double freeze.’ Kim Jong-un freezes any nuclear tests, any ballistic missile launches, while the U.S. and South Korea freeze large-scale military exercises, which are constantly used by North Korea as an excuse to conduct tests.”
Russian experts worry that while the United States is unlikely to launch an all-out military attack on North Korea, it could make a limited strike. This, warned Vladimir I. Batyuk, of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies in Moscow, would shatter the united front that Russia, China and the United States displayed in the sanctions vote at the United Nations.
“If the Americans apply military force against the D.P.R.K., they will clearly lose whatever political support Moscow and Beijing have provided so far for U.S. policy toward North Korea,” Mr. Batyuk told Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, using the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name of the North.
Vladimir Frolov, an independent foreign policy specialist, contrasted Russia’s “passive” response to the risk of nuclear war near its eastern border with the “hyperactive Russian diplomacy on Syria and Ukraine.”
Writing in Republic, an online Russian journal, Mr. Frolov complained that Moscow was engaged in “geopolitical outsourcing,” leaving China and the United States to calm a grave danger on its own border. The approach “works for now, but is not a very good look for the Russian leadership,” he said.
The leaders of France, America’s oldest ally, and Britain, America’s closest ally, did not offer fresh comments on the tensions, but Jeremy Corbyn, the far-left leader of the opposition Labour Party in Britain, said war would be catastrophic.
“The idea that anyone can contemplate using nuclear weapons at any stage against anybody is unthinkable,” Mr. Corbyn, who has advocated that Britain give up its nuclear weapons, told Sky News. “There is no such thing as an isolated nuclear attack. It will kill millions on both sides of the Korean border and, of course, in neighboring countries.”
Damian Green, Britain’s first secretary of state, said during a visit to Scotland that “the sensible way for people to proceed is to work through the U.N. process.”
He added, “That’s what the British government has been supporting and will continue to support.”
Several allies of the United States, while expressing dismay about the heated language, said Washington was correct to condemn North Korea’s weapons program.
“The international society cannot allow North Korea to further develop its nuclear and ballistic missile program,” Denmark’s foreign minister, Anders Samuelsen, said in a statement. “This would enable North Korea to terrorize the region — and beyond — even more. We are obviously not going to accept that threat. It must be stopped.”
Mr. Samuelsen added: “What we are witnessing at the moment is an escalation of rhetoric on North Korea. One could argue about the choice of words, but it’s important that North Korea accepts that the international society is putting its foot down.”
New Zealand’s foreign minister, Gerry Brownlee, re-emphasized the need for a strong diplomatic response, saying any pre-emptive action would be a mistake.
“Committing to an aggressive response now — while encouraging all involved to avoid escalation — is not a position we want to take,” Mr. Brownlee said, according to local reports.
Tom Plant, director of proliferation and nuclear policy at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, said European experts would generally agree that “a diplomatic resolution is the only feasible and sensible resolution” to the tensions.
Mr. Plant said he hoped that, behind the scenes, diplomats from the two sides were meeting in private to defuse the crisis.
“There are still very competent people in the State Department and in the White House capable of suggesting and conducting that course of action,” Mr. Plant said, adding that he was not confident that Mr. Trump himself would pursue such a course.
Tom Tugendhat, a former British military officer and the new head of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, compared the situation to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
“Kennedy and Khrushchev showed that nuclear tensions can be unwound by measured and thoughtful action,” Mr. Tugendhat told journalists. “I look forward to the U.S. and North Korea working with regional partners, including China, to reduce tensions and end the nuclear brinkmanship.”
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