The official said that these recent steps by the Chinese are assessed as part of an effort to “reduce the time to react to a North Korea contingency.”
Such a contingency could include the risk of an armed conflict breaking out as tensions on the peninsula have risen in the wake of multiple North Korean missile tests. There has also been ratcheted up rhetoric from the US and Pyongyang, 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.”
Beijing has long been concerned about potential instability in North Korea should the regime in Pyongyang collapse, fearing both an influx of refugees and the potential of reunification under a South Korean government closely allied to the US.
China is also opposed to the US military’s presence in South Korea, protesting the recent US and South Korea decision to begin deploying elements of the THAAD missile defense system.
Given the close economic links between North Korea and China, US military officials have said that Beijing is critical to solving the North Korean situation, with President Donald Trump recently commending Chinese President Xi Jinping for Chinese efforts to curb Pyongyang’s activities.