China is reportedly strengthening its defenses along its 880-mile border with North Korea.
China has established a new border brigade, set up 24-hour surveillance and monitoring of the mountainous areas, and built bunkers to protect Chinese forces in the event of a nuclear or chemical attack, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing Chinese military and government websites. The country has also been strengthening its troops in the area through regular drills, the provision of new weapons, and the transfer of soldiers from other regions to the area.
The military reportedly conducted a live-fire drill involving helicopter gunships in June and an exercise with an armored infantry unit transferred from Eastern China in July. The recent drills involved special forces and airborne units. China is believed to have a few hundred thousand troops operating in the border area at any given time, according to an NBC report from April.
China’s Ministry of National Defense explained that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “maintains a normal state of combat readiness and training” on the border. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that the North Korea issue cannot be solved through military force, but China appears to be preparing for a crisis.
China is putting its military through a massive reform and modernization program, but activities near the border may have another purpose.
Although relations have been strained for years, ties between Pyongyang and Beijing have frayed in recent months. China has, to a certain extent, stepped up pressure on North Korea, leading Pyongyang to accuse Beijing of dancing to the tune of the U.S. and its allies. At the same time, North Korea has been testing weapons and advancing its missile program at an accelerated rate.
Chinese military actions in the border region may be preparation for a collapse or renewed conflict on the peninsula.
“We can’t let the flames of war burn into China,” retired Maj. Gen. Wang Haiyun explained. He suggested that the Chinese military should seize parts of North Korea, including North Korea’s nuclear facilities, as well as establish defenses to prevent floods of refugees and disbanded soldiers from pouring into China in a crisis, the WSJ reported.
It is “necessary to prepare for military action for a potential war,” Wang wrote in a strong opinion article in March. While his opinions do not represent those of the Chinese government, such attitudes are not being censored and are becoming more prominent among Chinese military experts.
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