China is preparing for a potential crisis with North Korea, bolstering its defenses along their shared border by creating a patrol brigade and building bunkers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
China’s actions come on the heels of escalating rhetoric from U.S. officials who decried the latest missile test by the North’s reclusive communist regime. Pyongyang executed its first intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 4 and boasted that it has the technology to reach “anywhere in the world.”
Despite technically having the range to reach the United States, the North still has neither the technology to re-enter the atmosphere safely, nor the capability to build a nuclear warhead small enough to fit onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, experts say. The United States has historically been the main target of the North’s rhetoric.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement following the test that the North’s move “represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world.”
“As we, along with others, have made clear, we will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea,” Tillerson said, adding that the U.S. is currently only seeking “peaceful denuclearization.”
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that its troops “maintain a normal state of combat readiness and training,” along the China-North Korea border, but experts say that troops are mobilized nearby in preparation for a potential crisis.
China has been reinforcing defenses along its 880-mile border with North Korea since Pyongyang first tested a missile in 2006. That includes building fencing in some areas and setting up patrols.
Such preparations signal that China may be preparing for a crisis in North Korea, such as an economic disaster or a U.S. missile strike that would lead millions of people to flee to the border.
U.S. President Donald Trump has established a warm relationship with China since taking office, and has pressured China to take a firmer stance in dealing with North Korea.
A top U.S. army chief warned this week that a military conflict in North Korea would be “unlike any we have experienced.”
“Many people have talked about military options with words like ‘unimaginable,'” Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
“I would shift that slightly to ‘horrific.’ It would be a loss of life unlike any we have experienced in our lifetimes and I mean anyone who’s been alive since World War II has never seen the loss of life that could occur if there’s a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.”