BEIJING — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged Saturday that the United State is maintaining direct channels of communication with North Korea even as tensions rise over the North’s nuclear and missile programs and the countries’ leaders spar through bellicose name-calling.

Tillerson said the U.S. was probing North Korea’s willingness to talk, and called for a calming of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, adding it was incumbent on the North to halt missile launches.

“We have lines of communication to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout,” Tillerson said during a visit to China.

“We have a couple … three channels open to Pyongyang. We can talk to them, we do talk to them.”

No elaboration about those channels or the substance of any discussions came from Tillerson, who met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top officials in Beijing.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war, and the Demilitarized Zone divides North and South Korea.

Since President Trump took office in January, the U.S. has restored a diplomatic back-channel between the State Department and North Korea’s mission at the United Nations. That’s been a way for the two sides to communicate because they lack formal diplomatic ties.

The main aim of the initial contacts was to seek the freedom of several American citizens imprisoned in North Korea.