China Places Air Force on ‘High Alert’ in the Event of Conflict in North Korea
China has apparently placed units of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) "on high alert" for any "contingency" in North Korea, including an invasion of that country to eliminate its nuclear weapons making program.
U.S. intelligence services sources quoted by American media are saying they've detected an unusual level of activity by PLAAF attack and strategic bomber aircraft at a number of air bases close to China's border with North Korea, indicating a heightened state of readiness.
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The same officials, however, went out of their way to downplay perceptions China might be considering taking military action against North Korea or might just be putting on a show of force to intimidate the north and its leader, Kim Jong-un.
There's also the assessment this state of readiness might also be directed against the U.S. as a warning not to launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea's nuclear weapons facilities.
U.S. intelligence is also seeing an "extraordinary number" of Chinese military aircraft being brought up to full readiness through intensified maintenance. One source said these new actions by the Chinese are assessed as part of an effort to "reduce the time to react to a North Korea contingency."
"Nobody thinks the Chinese are going to press North Korea militarily or bring the regime to its knees, but the strategy looks to China to find a political solution more than anything else," said a senior official quoted by American media.
The warplanes cited by American media were said to be land attack aircraft and bombers capable of carrying cruise missiles. This seems to indicate the PLAAF squadrons under high alert are those flying China's only attack aircraft, the Xian JH-7 two-seat, twin-engine fighter-bomber.
The JH-7 is capable of carrying up to 9,000 kg of ordnance, including air-to-surface missiles; laser-guided bombs; satellite-guided bombs guided and unguided or "dumb" bombs.
China's only strategic bomber is the Xian H-6 twin engine jet bomber, the Chinese version of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine jet bomber. The latest version, the H-6K, is capable of carrying air-launched cruise missiles.
An H-6K can mount from four to seven KD-20; CJ-10K and CJ-20 land attack cruise missiles, which are all derivatives of the CJ-10 land-attack missile. The standard CJ-10 missile carries a 500 kg high-explosive warhead.