China opening multiple fronts like the one on India border maybe because of Beijing’s assessment that the world is distracted due to COVID-19 pandemic and it may advantage of it, a US diplomat said on Thursday.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, David Stilwell, made this remark at a press conference during a conference call after the Hawaii meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi to exchange views on bilateral relations.
Talking about the recent India-China stand-off at Galwan valley in eastern Ladakh area, he said, “…one explanation for creating multiple fronts like this is an assessment in Beijing that the world is distracted and is focused entirely on survival, right, recovering from the corona pandemic, which then possibly is seen as an opportunity to take advantage of the distraction.”
“This activity (Chinese incursion) is similar to the activity we have seen in the past on border disputes with the PRC, and again, I would point you to those – I think it was 2015 when Xi Jinping travelled to India the first time.
The United States has been watching the India-China border dispute very closely, he added.
Talking about the previous India and China standoff in Doklam, he said, “…then we saw the Doklam issue down near Bhutan, where we saw similar concerns. I wish I knew. Again, we do not have a lot of visibility and we do not have a lot of open dialogue with our Chinese counterparts.”
On the night of June 15-16, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh as a result of an attempt by the Chinese troops to unilaterally change the status quo during de-escalation process.
Responding to a question on the aggressive Chinese behaviour with its neighbours, including India, Stilwell said, “I’m not going to offer an official US Government position on that, but there are numerous explanations out there for that (in the public domain).”
During the news conference, Stilwell did not confirm if the ongoing Indo-China border clash came up in the meeting between Pompeo and Yang but the State Department official did express concern over the recent Chinese behaviour in the region.
“The actions that we’ve seen out of the PRC of late — and you all know this as you watch the beat — have been not really constructive as we look at India, the South China Sea, Hong Kong issues, and just go around the perimeter. In the periphery things like trade have not lived up to the billing, unfortunately,” Stillwell said.