The United States urged China to “use all its leverage” to help rein in North Korean provocation.

Top US officials traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry to Seoul say it is of regional and global interest for China to restrain its North Korean ally from further “destabilizing” the peninsula, reports AFP.

“China has a huge stake in stability, and the continued North Korean pursuit of a nuclear armed missile capability is the enemy of stability,” a senior US administration official told reporters.

“It is no secret that China has most leverage, most influence, with North Korea… we would want them to use some of that leverage,” he said.

Pyongyang has stirred up tensions on the Korean peninsula with a torrent of warlike rhetoric and threats of a nuclear strike against the US and its allies.

Speculations run high that the reclusive nation is preparing to test fire a medium-range missile, known as the Musudan, which was moved to its east coast. The North’s reunification ministry said it has “powerful striking means” and is capable of firing a nuclear-armed missile.

A US Defense Intelligence study, however, assessed “with moderate confidence” the North could fire a nuclear-armed missile, though with “low reliability”.

US President Barack Obama said he preferred to resolve tensions with North Korea through diplomatic means but “will take all necessary steps to protect its people” and its allies.