MOSCOW — Russia's foreign minister is urging the United States to negotiate a deal with North Korea to avert war, voicing concern that tensions might spiral out of control.

Referring to the U.S., Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that "the one who is smarter and stronger must take the first step" in diplomatic efforts.

Lavrov says Moscow has asked Washington in confidential conversations if it realizes that U.S. allies South Korea and Japan would suffer the most if the North's nuclear missile tests provoke a military conflict.

He says the U.S. response was that certain developments would leave military intervention as the only option.

Lavrov didn't offer further details, but said Russia would do all it can to prevent "such horrible developments."

He was speaking with students at Russia's top diplomacy school.