The Chinese government bristled last week after the US suggested that it might cut economic ties with any country trading with North Korea, an implicit dig at the Chinese, who are responsible for 90% of the isolated country’s foreign trade. And after suggesting that they might use their UN Security Council veto power to block more sanctions against the North – after all, the China-Russia peace map calls for the US and South Korea to stop holding military drills – the North’s neighbor and primary benefactor has reportedly conducted a military exercise of its own, according to Reuters.
News of the drill arrived as US President Donald Trump is expected to press China to institute an oil embargo against North Korea, eliminating the country’s primary source of petroleum, which flows to it from China through the “Friendship Pipeline” which runs from China under the Yalu River into North Korea.
China’s air force has carried out exercises near the Korean peninsula to practice defending against a “surprise attack” coming over the sea, Chinese state media reported. An anti-aircraft defense battalion carried out the exercises early on Tuesday, near the Bohai Sea, the innermost gulf of the Yellow Sea that separates China from the peninsula, an official military website www.81.cn reported.
While Reuters offers scant details about the exercise and the motives behind it, it’s safe to say that China is preparing for any blowback that could occur should the US-North Korea war of words blossoms into a full-scale military conflict, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned. If the Kim regime falls, China would certainly need to defend its border with the North as the country devolves into chaos.
Troops traveled to the Bohai site from central China before starting drills to fend off the “surprise attack.” “The troops’ rapid response capabilities and actual combat levels have effectively been tested,” it said.
Initial reports said it was the first time “certain weapons” had been used to shoot down low-altitude targets coming over the sea, but they didn’t specify what the weapons are. China’s Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment, Reuters said. Of course, China’s exercise came days after North Korea carried out its sixth and largest nuclear test of an advanced hydrogen bomb and there is mounting concern internationally that the country plans more weapons tests, possibly of a long-range missile.
As Reuters points out, South Korea and the US have also been discussing the deployment of aircraft carriers and strategic bombers to the Korean peninsula. The North’s benefactor is “extremely suspicious” of any US-backed military buildup and repeatedly expressed anger at the deployment of US THAAD missile-defense systems in South Korea. To China, the missile “defense” systems look like weapons.
We imagine that, as tensions continue to simmer, China will continue to prepare for the eventuality of US-led coalition forces advancing beyond the 38th parallel.