PLZ-07 self-propelled howitzers of the 39th Army Group conduct a drill during the Iron Flow 134 exercise in December 2013. (Photo/Xinhua)
Nearly 100,000 Chinese soldiers and thousands of vehicles from the 16th and 39th Army Groups of the Shenyang Military Region have been mobilized for a winter exercise near the North Korean border to prepare for a potential crisis over the Korean peninsula, reports the Seoul-based Chosun Ilbo.
The exercise launched on Jan. 10 is being held in the border region between the Changbai mountain and Heilongjiang river, the paper said.
The drill is a normal military exercise to train soldiers to fight in winter and long-range conditions, according to national state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). However, a source from the People's Liberation Army said that it is very rare to see 100,000 military personnel mobilized for a regular exercise. The 39th Army Group has only just completed its "Iron Flow 134" exercise in the region late last year, the source added.
Chinese authorities have declared that no civilian vessels are allowed to enter the waters of the Bohai Strait and northern part of the Yellow Sea between Jan. 10-17 due to the military operation. Observers claim that the PLA chose to launch the military exercises after the execution of Jang Sung-taek, former vice chairman of North Korean National Defense Commission, by order of North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-un. The latest political struggle and execution in the reclusive nation has concerned many in China as Jang was in charge of economic affairs and cooperation with China.
The CCTV report said that the current exercise is being held only 220 kilometers away from North Korea's Sinuiju Special Administrative Region. Observers said that it is a move to show strength and maintain regional security and stability on the Korean peninsula.