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China Conducts Air Raid Drill In Huichen Amid North Korea Tensions

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BEIJING -- A northeastern Chinese city near the border with North Korea staged an air raid drill amid tensions over Pyongyang's latest threats, state media reported Friday.

Authorities in Huichen, a city of 250,000 people in Jilin province, sounded alarms in residential areas on Thursday morning, the China News Service reported. Participants were shown to underground shelters and the all-clear was sounded 30 minutes later, it said.

CNS quoted the leader of the exercise, Xu Helin, as saying the city plans a series of drills to boost residents' "disaster response abilities."

It wasn't clear how long the drill had been planned or how many took part. Calls to the city's spokesman and civil air defense office rang unanswered.

However, Hong Kong's Phoenix TV cited unidentified government sources as saying the drill was previously scheduled and was not a response to current tensions.

North Korea has warned of a possible nuclear war and said it has weapons "on standby" if provoked.

North Korean parachute troops also conducted drills Thursday in the city of Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from the Chinese city of Dandong, according to Japan's Kyodo News Agency. It wasn't clear what was achieved by the exercises, which were clearly visible from the Chinese side.

China is impoverished North Korea's most important economic partner and the hardline communist regime's biggest diplomatic ally. However, Beijing has sought not to get involved in the current spike in tensions and on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei responded to questions on the issue by reiterating China's call for talks.

"Under the present circumstances, we call on all parties involved to remain calm and restrained, not provoke each other, not do anything that fuels the tension," Hong said.

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