US official: With eye on North Korea, China puts bombers on ‘high alert’

Washington (CNN) Chinese air force land-attack, cruise-missile-capable bombers were put “on high alert” on Wednesday as the US sees evidence that the Chinese military is preparing to respond to a potential situation in North Korea, a US defense official tells CNN.

The official said the US has also seen an extraordinary number of Chinese military aircraft being brought up to full readiness through intensified maintenance.

These recent steps by the Chinese are assessed as part of an effort to “reduce the time to react to a North Korea contingency,” the official said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said Friday he was “aware of the relevant reports” of a heightened alert in the Chinese Air Force, but said he has “no information to give.”

Such a contingency could include the risk of an armed conflict breaking out as tensions on the peninsula have increased in the wake of multiple North Korean missile tests.

The US and Pyongyang have ratcheted up their rhetoric, with the latter’s state media warning Thursday that a pre-emptive strike by North Korea would result in the US and South Korea being “completely destroyed in an instant.”

Several senior administration officials told CNN Thursday that China is now the focus of the Trump administration’s North Korea strategy.

The officials said Trump’s approach is based on a careful review of past US efforts to deal with North Korea, noting that during the analysis of failed negotiating efforts with the long-reigning Kim family, one thing became abundantly clear: “China has never exerted maximum leverage on the Kim regime.”

It’s estimated that some 85% of North Korea’s economic trade is dependent on China. Given those close economic links, US military officials have said that Beijing is critical to solving the North Korean situation.

Full article: US official: With eye on North Korea, China puts bombers on ‘high alert‘ (CNN)

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