Washington DC: “The PLA has escalated border tensions – we see it today in India, the world’s most popular – populous democracy. And we watch as it militarizes the South China Sea and illegally claims more territory there, threatening vital sea lanes, a promise they broke again.”
This was stated in a live broadcast by the US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Friday 19 June 2020.
Pompeo referred to his long talk with the Chinese Communist Party Politburo Member Yang Jiechi and said “t’s no longer enough to listen to what the Chinese Communist Party is saying. We can see their actions. I ticked through a few of them: Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, what they’re doing in India, what they’ve done in the economic zones along the Philippines and Malaysia and Indonesia and Vietnam, the coercion on Australia – when they had the audacity to demand that there would be an investigation of how this virus got from Wuhan to Milan, how this virus got from Wuhan to Tehran, how this virus got from Wuhan to Oklahoma City, and to Belgium and to Spain, and decimating the global economy.
During a press briefing last week (Thursday 18 June 2020), following the US Secretary of State Pompeo’s meeting With the Chinese Poliburo Member Yang Jiechi the US Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell refused to speculate but cited articles underlining that there is an assessment in Beijing that the world is distracted and is focused entirely on survival and recovering from the corona pandemic, which then possibly is seen as an opportunity to take advantage of distraction.
Stilwell was responding to a pointed question on “China’s moves vis-a-vis Hong Kong, the fighter sorties around Taiwan, and now the border clash on the China-Indian border”. He was particularly asked by a media-person: “Did you communicate any U.S. warnings regarding those areas, maybe especially regarding India?”
Especially pointing to what the US is “obviously watching very closely” – the India-China border dispute, Stilwell said this activity “is similar to activity we’ve 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 traveled to India the first time. The PLA invaded this contested area deeper and longer, with more people, than ever before historically. Again, whether that was a negotiating tactic or a – just a punch in the nose to demonstrate their superiority, I don’t know. But then we saw the Doklam issue down near Bhutan, where we saw similar concerns. I wish I knew. Again, we don’t have a lot of visibility and we don’t have a lot of open dialogue with our Chinese counterparts, and honestly I’d like to see more of that if we can.”
The US wants constructive and result oriented relationship that’s fair and recioprocal with China. The US wants action and not just conversations, Stilwell said as he went on to underscore: “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- like trade have not lived up to the billing.
Stilwell further said:
“As far as South China Sea militarization, sinking fishing ships and more provocative behavior around Taiwan, hard to say given all that’s going on, given how the world is struggling with corona, why anybody would take advantage of that or try to take advantage of that. Although I would note that Taiwan’s handling of the corona virus was laudable, it was world-class. In fact, they knew long before anybody that there should be deep concern about any reports of that sort of epidemic inside China. So they were the first to close their borders and then start actively looking for signs of the pandemic.
And so – in the meantime, the world is still reeling from this problem, and I don’t see how this would inspire a green light toward more provocative behavior. I mean, India is trying to focus on dealing with the disease. That doesn’t mean the U.S. is distracted.”