The U.S. Department of Defense recognized the possibility that the Chinese military may intervene to get hold of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction in the event of war on the Korean Peninsula. It analyzed that in the case of military confrontation between the South and the North on the peninsula or the North Korean regime's collapse, China might send its army to prevent South Korea and the U.S. from taking over control of North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities. It is known that the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command’s Plan includes an operation to expeditiously take control of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal in the event of a sudden shift on the Korean Peninsula.
In the 2022 China Military Power Report, the U.S. Department of Defense stated Tuesday that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is conducting military exercises in preparation for a contingency on the Korean Peninsula, including air, land, sea, and chemical defense training events. “China’s leaders could order the Northern Theater Command to engage in a range of operations in the event of a crisis.”
“These could include securing the China-North Korea border to control the flow of refugees or a military intervention into North Korea to secure weapons of mass destruction or preserve a North Korean buffer state,” the report stated.
The U.S. Department of Defense revealed the 2022 China Military Power Report, which also consists of the nation’s defense budget. It had submitted to the U.S. Congress last month in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act. Last year’s report contained the same assessment, which is particularly notable given the intensifying military tension between the U.S. and China. The Biden administration is ratcheting up alarms about the Chinese intervention in the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula. The National Defense Strategy report that it revealed in October also stated that “a crisis or conflict on the Korean Peninsula could involve a number of nuclear-armed actors, raising the risk of a broader conflict.”
The report also revealed that the Department of Defense estimates that the PRC’s operational nuclear warheads stockpile has surpassed 400 and that China will likely field a stockpile of about 1,500 warheads by 2035. The estimated figure has increased twice in just two years, compared to 200 warheads in the 2020 report.