The Chinese navy began a series of live-fire exercises off the Korean peninsula as tensions over the country’s nuclear ambitions expand.
According to the South China Morning Post, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began a series of live-fire drills on Thursday afternoon using guided-missile destroyers in the Bohai sea that will continue until next Monday.
The drills also coincide with the beginning of a series of joint exercises with Russia, which include a computer-simulated anti-missile exercise as well as ballistic missile tracking drills and information-sharing exercises between the United States, Japan, and South Korea.
“These exercises are aimed at preparing the two militaries as North Korea becomes more provocative and unpredictable, and with no sign that Pyongyang is likely to give up its nuclear program and the U.S. repeatedly threatening to strike the North,” Li Jie, a military expert in Beijing, told the Post on Tuesday.
Collin Koh, another military expert at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, also warned that the drills were a response to growing U.S. activity in the region.
“This latest move is a response to the growing cooperation between the U.S. and its allies in Northeast Asia in the realm of missile defense—and respective build-ups of such capabilities as seen in Japan’s quest to buy Aegis Ashore [anti-missile system] and South Korea’s … Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system,” Koh said.
China has also conducted numerous military drills near its border with North Korea as the Kim regime continues to advance its nuclear capacities, although the government has denied that they are aimed at any particular country.
This week, reports surfaced that Chinese authorities had begun planning to build five refugee camps near the North Korea border, fearing an exodus of North Koreans refugees during any potential conflict. A government spokesperson again refused to confirm their existence.
The latest series of drills follow North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test, as the rogue communist state continues threatening to destroy the United States, South Korea, and even Japan.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the U.S. was “ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk,” and hold a meeting “without precondition,” although this offer appeared to be rescinded by the White House.
“Given North Korea’s most recent missile test, clearly now is not the time,” a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said.