China is ramping up its military presence on its 880-mile border with North Korea in case a nuclear, economic, or military crisis sends millions of North Koreans fleeing in search of greener pastures, according to government websites. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, that might not be all China is preparing for. China's Defense Ministry hasn't referred to North Korea as the reason for a new border defense brigade along with a 24-hour video surveillance system, unit upgrades, new shelters and command posts, and recent live-fire and special forces drills in border regions; but experts say China could be preparing to intervene should the US attempt to seize nuclear weapons from its ally on the Korean Peninsula. Some aren't so sure China would be keen to take on the US and stress that recent enhancements at the border were first discussed last year.
However, "once you start talking about efforts from outside powers, in particular the United States and South Korea, to stabilize the North ... you’re starting to look at a much more robust Chinese response," argues a former US defense official for East Asia. "If you’re going to make me place bets on where I think the US and China would first get into a conflict ... it’s the Korean Peninsula." Others note China will want to prevent US influence there to retain its regional power. In a column in May, retired Maj. Gen. Wang Haiyun wrote China should not only intervene in a Korean conflict but demand no US occupation of North Korean territory, though he said he did not speak for the government. He made similar comments in an op-ed in the state-owned Global Times in March, CNN reports. (Read more China stories.)