China on Wednesday again accused India of provoking a border clash earlier this month that left at least 20 soldiers dead, but urged New Delhi to “meet China halfway” in restoring peace and stability along their disputed frontier high in the Himalayas.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian offered a longer explanation of China’s view of the incident but gave little new information.
He reasserted China’s claim that the confrontation on June 15 in the Galwan Valley, part of the disputed Ladakh region, occurred on China’s side of the Actual Line of Control and Indian forces had illegally entered Chinese territory.
“The responsibility (for the incident) is entirely not on the Chinese side,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.
“The reckless actions by the Indian military seriously violated agreements signed between the two countries and seriously violated the basic principles of international relations. They were evil in nature and the consequences were severe,” Zhao said.
Commanders agreed Monday to disengage their forces in their first meeting since the confrontation.
On Wednesday, Indian and Chinese officials participated in a video conference and reaffirmed that both sides should sincerely implement the understanding on disengagement and de-escalation reached by the army commanders, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said in a statement.
The clash was the deadliest between the two countries in 45 years. India said 20 of its soldiers died. China has not released any information on casualties on its side.
Soldiers brawled with clubs, rocks and their fists at 4,270 metres (14,000 feet) above sea level, but no shots were fired, Indian officials have said. The soldiers carry firearms but are not allowed to use them under a previous agreement in the border dispute.
Indian security officials said the fatalities were caused by severe injuries and exposure to subfreezing temperatures.
The valley falls within a remote stretch of the 3,380-kilometre (2,100-mile) Line of Actual Control – the border established following a war between India and China in 1962 that resulted in an uneasy truce.
Zhao said talks held Monday and Tuesday resulted in both sides agreeing to take necessary measures to cool the situation and promote peace and stability.
“We hope the Indian side will strictly abide by and seriously implement the above consensus and meet China halfway and through practical actions, restore peace and stability in the border region,” Zhao said.
Asked why China was offering such a lengthy defence of its position when the sides had already agreed to reduce tensions, Zhao said that was to counter a “large amount of fake news” on the matter being circulated by Indian diplomats and the country’s media.
A nearly identical statement was issued by China’s Defence Ministry, which said Chinese troops had taken “defensive measures and determinedly counterattacked against the Indian side’s violent actions, successfully protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The tensions appear to be rooted in China’s objections to India building a road through a valley connecting the region to an airstrip, possibly sparking Beijing’s move to assert control over territory along the border that is not clearly defined in places.
In all, China claims some 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 square miles) of territory in India’s northeast, including the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, with its traditionally Buddhist population. India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometres (15,000 square miles) of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the western Himalayas, including part of the Ladakh region.
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