China has just placed its land-attack, cruise-missile-capable bombers on “high alert,” a US defense official said Thursday, saying there has been an “extraordinary” number of Chinese military aircraft brought to full readiness through intensified maintenance.
The recent steps by China reflect their effort to “reduce the time to react to a North Korean contingency,” CNN reports.
The contingency could include the risk of an armed conflict breaking out on the Korean peninsula between the North and the South, aided by the United States. Tensions have been high in the wake of multiple North Korean missile tests.
Rhetoric on both sides has been ratcheted up as well. On Thursday, Pyongyang warned that a preemptive strike by North Korea would result in the U.S. and South Korea being “completely destroyed in an instant.”
China is terribly nervous about their relationship with North Korea and its increasing political instability. Should the regime collapse, there would be an influx of millions of refugees across the border and a reunification of a major American ally at their border.
China is also opposed to the US military’s presence in South Korea, protesting the recent US and South Korea decision to begin deploying elements of the THAAD missile defense system.
Given the close economic links between North Korea and China, US military officials have said that Beijing is critical to solving the North Korean situation, with President Donald Trump recently commending Chinese President Xi Jinping for Chinese efforts to curb Pyongyang’s activities.