The "extraordinary" mobilization of bomber aircraft was reportedly acknowledged by China's foreign ministry, giving no further details.
The general assumption is that China is taking a defensive position in case the US administration of President Donald Trump follows through on its repeated threats of carrying out pre-emptive strikes on North Korea's nuclear facilities.
Traditionally an ally of the communist government in Pyongyang, Beijing is widely assumed to be protecting its junior partner by flexing a deterrence force against the US. China has openly urged the US to not take unilateral military action against North Korea over the latter's controversial nuclear program.
Beijing has been calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, a crisis which seems to be intensifying following a dire warning this week from US Vice President Mike Pence that the "sword is ready," which was met with reciprocal threats from North Korea that it would "reduce the US to ashes."
Despite calls for diplomacy from China, it is also clear that Beijing is becoming exasperated with North Korea, known formally as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. China is perplexed by what it sees as the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-Un forming an "epicenter of instability" on its borders.
Earlier this month, there was even an editorial carried by Chinese state-run media warning that China might be forced to launch its own military strikes on North Korea if it comes down to the "bottom line" of preserving stability and security in the region.
China certainly has strong historic ties with North Korea. It sided with the country during the Korean War (1950-1953) and probably salvaged the North from defeat by the US and its South Korean ally.
China is also a vital trading partner for North Korea, helping it to cope with decades of Western-imposed economic sanctions.
However, the once-strategic relationship has soured in recent years. China's President Xi Jinping has never met North Korea's Kim Jong-Un since the latter came to power nearly six years ago. It is increasingly evidently, too, that Beijing and Pyongyang are not on the same page when it comes to the nuclear issue.
While North Korea asserts that it will never give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile technology, Beijing has officially repudiated this path for Pyongyang, contending that the international community will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.
It is also apparent that China's global strategic interests are being hampered by its association with North Korea, which is portrayed as a pariah state in the Western media. One can safely assume that China views a sound economic partnership with the US as much more important than being in hock to North Korea.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping appears to have developed a close personal relationship with his American counterpart, Donald Trump. Since their friendly dinner at Trump's Florida beach resort earlier this month, the two leaders have shared several phone calls.
The Trump administration has exerted pressure on China to get tough on North Korea and Beijing seems to be obliging, having recently slapped sanctions on North Korea's coal imports and commercial air travel.
The Trump administration is reportedly offering China concessions on trade in exchange for its cooperation to rein in North Korea. Trump's sudden turnaround in declaring that China is "not a currency manipulator," in contrast to what he had repeatedly........