Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the North Korean regime is a "reckless" and "dangerous" threat to peace and stability in Australia.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Canberra, Turnbull said China carried the heaviest obligation to take action as it had the "greatest leverage over North Korea", according to

"It has the greatest obligation and responsibility to bring North Korea back into a realm of at least responsibility in terms of its engagement with its neighbours," Turnbull said.

"The North Korean regime is a threat to the peace of the region. It is a threat to all of its neighbours in the region, and if it were able to develop a missile that could travel as far as the United States with a warhead, or as far as Australia, then it obviously could threaten Australia and, indeed, the United States."


Turnbull said the eyes of the world were on Beijing, who he said has to "step up and bring this reckless threat to the peace and stability of our region to an end".

He said the Government was committed to ensuring the North Korean regime acts responsibly.

North Korea has threatened to carry out weekly missile tests amid rising military tensions with the US over the rogue state's nuclear ambitions.

"We'll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis," Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-Ryol told the BBC in Pyongyang.

He threatened an "all-out war" if the US was "reckless enough to use military means".

Meanwhile, the country's deputy UN ambassador blamed the US for the spike in tensions.

Kim In Ryong accused the Trump administration of turning the Korean peninsula into "the world's biggest hotspot" and creating "a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment."

He told a news conference on Monday that US-South Korean military exercises being staged now are the largest-ever "aggressive war drill."

He said North Korea's measures to bolster its nuclear forces are self-defensive "to cope with the US vicious nuclear threat and blackmail."

He says his country "is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US."

China in position to rein in North Korea

Australia's government has reissued calls for China to do more to rein in North Korea as the rogue nation threatens "weekly" missile tests.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop says if North Korea is allowed to continue its nuclear and missile program, it would create "extraordinary instability" in the region and could lead to armed conflict.

While Bishop did not express an opinion on US Vice President Mike Pence's declaration that the "era of strategic patience is over", she said Australia would continue to back international efforts to force North Korea to give up its nuclear program.

"The Trump Administration has explicitly rejected President Obama's approach of strategic patience because that led to a stalemate, during which time North Korea's illegal missile and nuclear program accelerated," Bishop said.

"Extraordinary instability"

"I think the Trump Administration realises a stalemate is not in its interest and it wants to work with China who has clear leverage over North Korea and is uniquely, and possibly the only country, that is in a position to bring North Korea to heel through diplomatic means," she said.

"It's certainly not in China's interests to allow a nuclear armed North Korea to threaten its neighbours or the US.

"This will create extraordinary instability which could even lead to conflict so it's important for China to recognise that it's not in its interest to seek to appease North Korea.

Given three quarters of all North Korean exports were to China, and the Asian superpower accounted for about 95 per cent of investment into North Korea, there was more China could do in terms of sanctions and other economic levers, Bishop said.

"Got to behave"

US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, took a moment at the annual White House Easter egg roll to deliver a terse message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un: "Got to behave."

Trump made the off-the-cuff comment to a CNN reporter after kicking off the 139th annual Easter egg roll with First Lady Melania Trump.

"Any message for North Korea, sir, Kim Jong-Un?" In response, Trump said: "Got to behave".

The US also said China sent "positive signals" that it will increase economic sanctions to pressure ally North Korea to abandon its development of nuclear weapons and missiles.

"We've got a lot of positive signals from the Chinese but it takes time," Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs said.

Trump's warning came after a tense weekend during which North Korea celebrated the birthdate of the regime's founder Kim Il-Sung with a massive military parade highlighting its growing missile capabilities.

But a missile test-launched on Sunday exploded shortly after takeoff, and a widely anticipated sixth nuclear test never materialised.

US Vice-President Mike Pence was in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday where he warned the North not to test Trump's resolve, adding "all options are on the table."

Pence also declared that the era of US "strategic patience" in dealing with the North was over, after more than two decades.

US concerns have mounted amid signs of progress in Pyongyang's efforts to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of landing a nuclear warhead on the US mainland.

President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron Trump, address the crowd at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Photo/AP
President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron Trump, address the crowd at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Photo/AP

Chinese and Russian spy ships trail Trump's "armada"

As tensions mount Trump has sent an "armada" of warships to the Korean Peninsula.

The US president sent a navy group led by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson into the region, in what is being seen as a signal to Pyongyang.

China and Russia have reportedly sent spy vessels to shadow the US fleet, Japanese media reported on Monday.

Citing "multiple sources of the Japanese government", The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that China and Russia had "dispatched intelligence-gathering vessels from their navies to chase the USS Carl Vinson".

The vessels are "strengthening warning and surveillance activities in the waters and airspace around the area," the Japanese daily said, according to its English language sister publication, The Japan News.

Japan prepares for refugee crisis

Also on Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revealed his government is drawing up contingency plans in case a crisis on the Korean Peninsula sends an influx of refugees to Japan.

Abe told a parliamentary session that the government is formulating measures including protecting foreigners, landing procedures, building and operating shelters, and screening asylum seekers.

Abe's disclosure came in response to a question that had been occasionally asked in the past but is now more realistic than ever with North Korea's missile capability rapidly advancing and tension with the US rising.

A North Korean KN-08 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile is paraded across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade in Pyongyang on Saturday. Photo/AP
A North Korean KN-08 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile is paraded across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade in Pyongyang on Saturday. Photo/AP

The government has been also working on evacuation plans for about 60,000 Japanese from South Korea in case of a crisis.

Abe is set to discuss North Korea on Tuesday with Pence.

Earlier, Pence warned that the Trump administration was going "to abandon the failed policy of strategic patience" with Pyongyang.

"We're going to abandon the failed policy of strategic patience. But we're going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea.

Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably," Pence told CNN in an interview at the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea.

The Trump administration is putting pressure on China to resolve the impasse with North Korea even though Trump spent much of his campaign attacking China for being a currency manipulator.

"I know the President was heartened by his discussions with President Xi (Jinping). We've seen China begin to take some actions to bring pressure on North Korea but there needs to be more," Pence said.