According to an un-named defense official, China has begun placing bombers on high alert, as well as working to increase its air-ready fleet of fighter jets by stepping up scheduled maintenance. Their ready posture, however, is not as a result of tensions between China and the United States, but rather is believed to be in preparation for the possibility of armed conflict in North Korea.
The Pentagon source who requested anonymity said the United States has assessed these steps to be part of an ongoing effort to “reduce the time to react to a North Korea contingency.” Although the official did not elaborate, the logical leap from that statement would indicate that China may be willing to use military force to disarm Kim Jong Un’s nuclear arsenal if tensions boil over into actual war.
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said he was “aware of the relevant reports” of a heightened alert in the Chinese Air Force, but said he has “no information to give.”
China has long been North Korea’s biggest and most powerful ally, often stepping in on their behalf as rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington escalates. However, since a recent meeting between Chinese Presidet Xi and American President Donald Trump, both nations seemed to have softened their posture toward one another – with Trump backing away from his claims that China is a “currency manipulator,” and China publicly acknowledging the need for them to play a more active role in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.