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By Ryan Pickrell

The U.S. has detected signs that China is preparing for a military crisis on the peninsula, a U.S. defense official revealed Thursday.

China has put People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) land-attack, cruise-missile capable bombers “on high alert,” an official told CNN, adding that analysis suggests the Chinese military is moving to boost its military readiness possibly to “reduce the time to react to a North Korea contingency.”

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high as the North continues to engage in provocative behavior in violation of international restrictions. North Korea has launched at least eight confirmed missiles since the start of the year, and its rhetoric continues to be particularly hostile.

The North threatened a “super-mighty preemptive strike” Thursday, warning that it could “wipe out” U.S. forces, as well as turn U.S. bases and the continental U.S. into a “pile of ashes.”

Reports on April 14 suggested China had put all five military regions on alert and instructed units to be ready to move in the event of a conflict. There were also reports that China moved 150,000 troops to the border in preparation for problems, however, there was no evidence to support those claims.

China keeps a contingency force of thousands of soldiers on the border.

The U.S. and South Korea are currently holding the Max Thunder air combat drill designed to improve allied readiness for a serious escalation of tensions on the peninsula. The U.S. and North Korea have been exchanging warnings and threats, but the situation has yet to come to blows.

The Trump administration is working with Beijing to help rein in North Korea, and China has, to a certain extent, ratcheted up pressure on the North Korean regime, potentially raising tensions between the old allies.

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