China has placed military forces on heightened alert in the northeastern part of the country as tensions mount on the Korean peninsula following recent threats by Pyongyang to attack, U.S. officials said.
Reports from the region reveal the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently increased its military posture in response to the heightened tensions, specifically North Korea’s declaration of a “state of war” and threats to conduct missile attacks against the United States and South Korea.
China’s navy also conducted live-firing naval drills by warships in the Yellow Sea that were set to end Monday near the Korean peninsula, in apparent support of North Korea, which was angered by ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills that are set to continue throughout April.
North Korea, meanwhile, is mobilizing missile forces, including road-mobile short- and medium-range missiles, according to officials familiar with satellite imagery of missile bases.
The missile activity is believed to be North Korea’s response to the ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises that last week included highly publicized flights by two B-2 strategic nuclear bombers near North Korean territory as part of annual military exercises.
North Korea’s government announced last week that since March 26 its missile and artillery forces have been placed on the highest alert status.
Specifically, Nodong medium-range missiles and their mobile launchers were spotted in satellite imagery, the officials said.
There are also indications North Korea will soon conduct a flight test of its new KN-08 road-mobile ICBM or its intermediate-range Musudan mobile missile. Test preparations had been detected in the past, the officials said.
A military provocation by North Korean forces against the South is not expected while the current war games are underway in South Korea, officials said.
However, the situation remains dangerous as hostilities could break out as a result of a miscalculation. South Korea’s government has said it would respond to any North Korean military provocation with force.
The Chinese military activities near North Korea were detected in Jilin Province, and intelligence reports from the area on March 19 indicated that PLA forces were ordered to go to “Level One” alert status, the highest level of readiness.
Large groups of soldiers were seen on the streets in Ji’an, a city in Jilin, amid reports that the PLA had been ordered to combat readiness status.
The troops were part of the 190th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, stationed in Benxi, in Liaoning Province. The movements are believed to be related to increased tensions in Korea.