China has continued to harden its positions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India, US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin said Saturday, days after a top US Army general expressed alarm over Beijing’s border infrastructure build-up.
He also flagged China’s “destabilising” military activity near Taiwan and its aggressive approach to the territories it claims in the South China Sea, saying this threatens to undermine the stability of the Indo-Pacific region. Speaking at the Shangri La Dialogue — a security conference organised by the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Singapore, in which top Chinese leaders are also present — Austin stated: “We are seeing Beijing continue to harden its position along the border that it shares with India.” Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a border standoff in eastern Ladakh since May 5, 2020, when a violent clash between the two sides erupted in the Pangong lake area. China has also been building bridges and constructing other infrastructure such as roads and residential units in the border areas with India.
Austin said: “Indo-Pacific countries shouldn’t face political intimidation, economic coercion or harassment by maritime militias.”
“In the East China Sea, China’s expanding fishing fleet is sparking tensions with its neighbors. In the South China Sea, China is using outposts on man-made islands bristling with advanced weaponry to advance its illegal maritime claims,” he said. “We are seeing [Chinese] vessels plunder the region’s provisions, operating illegally within the territorial waters of other Indo-Pacific countries.”