China continues to harden stand along LAC, says US defence secretary


China continues to harden its position along the borders with India, US defence secretary Lloyd James Austin said on Saturday, while underlining that Washington will stand by its friends in upholding their rights in the face of Beijing’s “war coercive” and “aggressive approach” in the Indo-Pacific.
China must desist from its aggressive and illegal approaches to push its territorial claims, Austin said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. While noting China is “pushing limits” in the East China Sea and South China Sea, he said: “Further to the west, we’re seeing Beijing continue to harden its position along the border that it shares with India.”
Stressing that US partnerships with treaty allies and Asean countries as well as through mechanisms like the Quad have grown and matured in the Indo-Pacific, which is at “the heart of American grand strategy”, Austin said, “We believe India’s growing military capability and technological prowess can be a stabilising force in the region.”
Austin’s statement about China hardening its posture with India is the second such observation by a top US official this week amidst the continuing military confrontation in eastern Ladakh, which is into its third year now with over 50,000 soldiers each forward deployed with heavy weapons along the frontier.
In New Delhi on Wednesday, the US army’s Pacific Commanding General Charles A Flynn had described China’s rapid build-up of military infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control as “alarming” and the activity levels of its People’s Liberation Army as “eyeopening” in the region.
Austin stressed the need for even stronger partnerships among like-minded countries to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific, promising that the US remained unwavering in “our mutual defence commitments” and fully prepared to deter and defeat any aggression.
“We also stand by our friends as they uphold their rights, which is especially important as the People’s Republic of China adopts the war coercive and aggressive approach to its territorial claims,” he said.
India is not represented by a minister at the Shangri-La Dialogue this time. Speaking at one of the sessions, Eastern Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta said China’s naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), as part of its anti-piracy escort force, did not pose a major challenge as of now.
“A fair amount of China’s trade passes through the Malacca Strait. I will not be surprised that in case there is a requirement, the PLA Navy could send more ships to the IOR to safeguard their trade,” he said.
“At the moment, I really don’t see that as a major challenge to the Indian Navy. But yes, it is something to be watched… India being where it is geographically will have to spend time and effort in monitoring and understanding the pattern of their operations. Depending on how a situation develops, I think responses will have to be formulated by India. But so far, we have not had an occasion for concern,” he added.


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