- - Monday, April 8, 2013

China’s military and defense ministry on Sunday confirmed that military forces in a border region near North Korea conducted live-fire drills amid tensions between North Korea and the United States.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, canceled a planned test launch of a Minuteman III ballistic missile to avoid further upsetting ties with North Korea.

Intelligence sources said signs continue to indicate that North Korea is planning to conduct a flight test soon of its intermediate-range Musudan missile that has enough range to reach Guam.

Two Musudan missiles have been readied and the flight test may take place around April 15, the anniversary of the birth of the late leader Kim Il Sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un.

Additionally, North Korea may conduct another underground nuclear test in the coming days, the sources said, based on intelligence indicators of increased activity at North Korea’s northern nuclear testing facility.

Tensions remain high as North Korea’s communist regime in recent weeks issued a string of threats to conduct nuclear missile attacks on the United States and South Korea, whose militaries are currently engaged in large-scale military exercises that include flights of B-52 and B-2 strategic nuclear bombers near the peninsula.

Regarding the Chinese troop movements, the Communist Party newspaperGlobal Times reported Sunday that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) carried out live fire maneuvers in Shenyang, near the North Korean border, on April 1.

The newspaper, quoting the official newspaper PLA Daily and the Chinese Defense Ministry, said tanks and armored vehicles from a Shenyang military region mechanized infantry unit took part in the drills during a snowstorm.

The forces “zigzagged through bomb craters, muddy holes, while climbing over small hills that were training items designed to constantly prepare for real combat capabilities,” the report stated.

The brief item published in Global Times included photos of two weapons systems used in the exercises, including a Type 07 122 millimeter automatic cannon and a Type 59 tank painted white for camouflage during winter operations.

In an unusual twist that apparently sought to link the exercises to tension in Korea, the same headline for the article, “The military disclosed in the Shenyang Military Region, April 1st armored brigade combat exercises,” appeared above two photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, one showing him standing with soldiers in what appears to be a border observation post and a second photo of Kim standing behind a soldier firing a pistol.

The Free Beacon reported April 3 that PLA troops and tanks were mobilized in several locations in northeastern China, including in Daqing, located in northeastern Heilongjiang Province, and in the border city of Shenyang, in Liaoning Province.

U.S. officials said the movements were mainly part of 190th Mechanized Infantry Brigade based in Benxi, Liaoning Province. The brigade is believed to be part of PLA’s Shenyang Military Region and is the frontline combat unit that would respond to any regional conflict or refugee flows. Troops and tank movements also were reported in Dandong, in Liaoning Province.

Regarding the U.S. missile flight test, a senior defense official confirmed that a Minuteman 3 ICBM test planned for launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., was postponed.

“This test was long planned and was never associated with North Korea to begin with,” the official said. “But given recent tensions on the Korean Peninsula, it’s prudent and wise to take steps that avoid any misperception or chance of manipulation.”

Story Continues →