The US and North Korea have several channels of communications and are in "direct contact" with each other following continuing tensions between the two countries, secretary of state Rex Tillerson has revealed.

Tillerson said the US is "probing" the possibility of talks with the secretive state as part of bid to calm the taunts and threats exchanged with North Korea which have raised fears of a potential nuclear attack.

In recent week, US president Donald Trump has threatened to "annihilate" North Korea and that Kim Jong-Un was on a "suicide mission" because of the countries missile tests.

In response, North Korea described Trump an "old psychopath" bent on the "suicidal act of inviting a nuclear disaster that will reduce America to a sea of flames".

Speaking to reporters during a trip to China, Tillerson said: "We are probing, so stay tuned," reported Reuters.

"We ask: 'Would you like to talk?'" Tillerson added, noting the US has "a couple of, three channels open to Pyongyang. We can talk to them. We do talk to them."

This is the first time it has been claimed the US and North Korea have been in direct talks with each other in the wake of the nuclear missile crisis.

Tillerson added: "I think the whole situation's a bit overheated right now. I think everyone would like for it to calm down.

"Obviously it would help if North Korea would stop firing off missiles. That'd calm things down a lot."

Tillerson is in Beijing to meet with China's president Xi Jinping as part of a bid to persuade the country to implement UN sanctions against North Korea.

Trump has been pressing for tougher measures on Pyongyang from China in order to attempt to get them to stop its nuclear weapons programme. The US president is due to attend his first state visit to Beijing in November.

Discussing his meeting with Xi, Tillerson said relations between the US and China "grow and mature on the strength of the relationship between yourself and President Trump", the Associated Press reported. "And we look forward to advancing that relationship at the upcoming summit."

He added: "Our two presidents have developed a very regular and close working relationship."

Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson said Washington was 'probing' the possibility of talks with North Korea Getty