China Must Prepare for Imminent War With North Korea, Top National Security Experts Warn

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an annual ammunition industry convention in Pyongyang on December 11. Reuters

It isn't only the United States that could soon see itself engaged in a deadly conflict fueled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. China also is at risk of an imminent war because of North Korea, warned some of China's most prestigious national security experts at a conference in Beijing this week.

"Conditions on the peninsula now make for the biggest risk of a war in decades," said Shi Yinhong, director of the Center on American Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing and an adviser to the State Council of China on diplomacy issues since February 2011, during the conference. "North Korea is a time bomb. We can only delay the explosion, hoping that by delaying it, a time will come to remove the detonator," he said, reported the South China Morning Post Saturday.

Wang Hongguang, former deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Region, an important military region, warned that a war could begin as soon as March, when South Korea and the United States are slated to hold annual military drills. "It is a highly dangerous period," Wang said during the conference. "Northeast China should mobilize defenses for war."

Chinese officials have sought to improve relations with North Korea amid unusually high tensions between Pyongyang and other world leaders over the reclusive nation's growing nuclear program. Local governments in China have taken precautions to prepare for conflict in case diplomatic gestures do not succeed. Earlier this month, a government newspaper in China's northeastern province of Jilin, on the North Korean border, published a full-page article advising residents on how to survive a nuclear attack, Quartz reported.

"It's natural that Jilin province is more sensitive to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, given its special geographic location. It's necessary for the provincial paper to publish information on nuclear weapons," wrote state tabloid Global Times in an editorial.

As its largest trading partner and main source of food, China is North Korea's most significant ally. It recently embraced new U.N. sanctions against North Korea while also calling for dialogue. U.S. officials, however, have urged China to do more to temper its neighbor's global threats and nuclear ambitions, Politico reported.

A North Korean soldier at the Yalu River in Sinuiju, North Korea, which borders Dandong in China's Liaoning province, September 9. Reuters

"Each U.N. member state must fully implement all existing U.N. Security Council resolutions," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday at the United Nations Security Council. "For those nations who have not done so, or who have been slow to enforce Security Council resolutions, your hesitation calls into question whether your vote is a commitment to words only but not actions. For countries who have not taken action, I urge you to consider your interest, your allegiances and your values in the face of this grave and global threat."