Russia's defence minister has said that any UN sanctions imposed in response to North Korea's claimed nuclear test should not even hint at using force.
North Korea's neighbours are keen to avoid any conflict
Sergei Ivanov also said that any measures against Pyongyang should not be indefinite.
His comments came as talks continued at the UN Security Council, ahead of an expected vote on a US draft resolution.
US President George W Bush called for tough sanctions, saying Pyongyang must face "real consequences".
"Nations around the world... agree on the need for a strong United Nations Security Council resolution that will require North Korea to dismantle its nuclear programs," he said in his weekly radio address.
But Mr Bush also reiterated that he wanted to use diplomatic means to solve the North Korean crisis.
His comments came after US officials said initial tests had detected radioactive gas consistent with a nuclear explosion near the site of North Korea's claimed nuclear test last Monday.
Diplomats at the UN Security Council meeting in New York say a vote is expected by the end of Saturday on a resolution bringing sanctions against North Korea.
The vote has already been delayed as negotiators struggle to agree a resolution text acceptable to China and Russia, both permanent Security Council members with strong ties to North Korea.
The BBC's Laura Trevelyan at the UN says the council is now trying to agree the fine tuning of the text.
LATEST DRAFT RESOLUTION
Bans sale of tanks, helicopters and missiles, as well as nuclear and missile technology
Allows inspection of ships going to or from N Korea
Bans sale of luxury goods
Bans travel by those working on weapons and missile programmes
Any further action needs new UN resolution
Under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, meaning it cannot be enforced by military means
The US has revised its draft resolution to remove the threat of imminent military action in an effort to allay Chinese and Russian concerns.
It has also reduced the total embargo on military equipment it initially wanted to a ban on imports of specific items such as tanks, helicopters and missiles.
Mr Ivanov's comments came as he and Russian President Vladimir Putin both held meetings with a top Chinese official in Moscow.
Mr Ivanov said both countries agreed on the need for peaceful, diplomatic means to resolve the crisis.
"Sanctions should not carry even a hint at use of force and mustn't be directed against the North Korean people," he said.
"For Russia and China, which border on North Korea, this issue is of primary importance."
Mr Ivanov said the two countries agreed that any measures against Pyongyang must be aimed at encouraging the North Koreans to return to stalled six-party negotiations about their nuclear programme.
In televised comments, Mr Putin spoke about the importance of Russia and China agreeing positions on international problems including North Korea.
The draft UN resolution retains a controversial provision allowing nations to inspect cargo moving in and out of North Korea in pursuit of non-conventional weapons.
China and Russia are concerned such checks could spark naval confrontations with North Korean boats.
The resolution also urges Pyongyang to implement a September 2005 agreement in which it pledged to give up its nuclear programme in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
Throughout the week there has been uncertainty about whether North Korea carried out a nuclear test, tried to but failed, or made a false claim.
US scientists found that there were traces of radioactive gas in the air near the site of the alleged nuclear test.
White House officials cautioned that this result alone did not confirm a successful test but it could mean that a nuclear test had been attempted.
But the US authorities stress that more tests are needed to reach a conclusion.
Japan said on Saturday that its latest survey of radiation levels in the air showed no irregularities. South Korean and Chinese scientists said earlier they had detected no evidence of radioactivity in air, soil and rainwater.
One official quoted by the Associated Press said the results could indicate a "nuclear fizzle", rather than a full test.