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China on Wednesday put its land-attack, cruise-missile-capable bombers "on high alert" and the US sees it as evidence that Beijing is preparing to respond to a potential situation in North Korea, a US defense official told CNN.
According to the report, the official said the US has also seen an extraordinary number of Chinese military aircraft being brought up to full readiness through intensified maintenance.
These recent steps by the Chinese are assessed as part of an effort to "reduce the time to react to a North Korea contingency".
However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Friday that he was "aware of the relevant reports" of a heightened alert in the Chinese Air Force but added he has "no information to give."
This comes in the wake of multiple North Korean missile tests.
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.
Meanwhile, China is also opposed to the US military's presence in South Korea, protesting the recent decision to begin deploying elements of the THAAD missile defense system.
Given the close economic links between North Korea and China, the US military officials have said that Beijing is critical to solving the North Korean situation, with President Donald Trump recently commending his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for Beijing's efforts to curb Pyongyang's activities.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)