Gillard asks China to 'calm' North Korea

AS MUCH of the international community kept an eye on the words from Pyongyang in North Korea, Prime Minister Julia Gillard stood about 2700km away on the Chinese island of Hainan to call for China to help prevent all-out war.

Ms Gillard is in China for a five-day visit as part of the Boao Forum for Asia, which would include meetings with China's new president Xi Jinping.

In her speech to the forum on Sunday, Ms Gillard referred to the escalating situation, saying "the consequences of conflict are ever more severe for us all".

"This is nowhere more clear than on the Korean Peninsula," she said.

"There, any aggression is a threat to the interests of every country in the region."

China has long been a supportive ally of the increasingly aggressive North Korea in direct opposition to South Korea which has strong military support from the United States.

The wranglings of Pyongyang prompted the US to release a statement on Sunday saying it would cancel a planned missile test in California to avoid the act being "misinterpreted" by North Korea.

In past weeks, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has ramped up his military's position in the region, in part by announcing it would build up its artillery and move its medium-range missles to its east coast, closer to South Korea's capital of Seoul.

Meanwhile, the US has quietly increased its backing for Seoul, flying a nuclear-capable B-2 bomber over South Korea as a show of force to the north, deploying stealth fighters, moving naval destroyers and radar ships nearer to the Korean coastline and announcing a missile defence system would be sent to Guam in coming weeks.

North Korea has consistent stated that Guam could be a target for attack because it holds a US military installation.

Pyongyang has also repeatedly warned it was prepared to launch a nuclear strike on the US mainland, a threat largely considered hollow and beyond North Korea's capabilities.

Ms Gillard told reporters before her departure that China was the key to calming the growing tension.

In her speech, she said Asian countries including China had to unite and work together against North Korea's antagonism.

"That co-operation is also a sign of what will be needed in future as we face other security challenges.

"Asia must be a region of sustainable security in which habits of co-operation are the norm."