2ND LEAD (Adds maps)

Indo-Pacific tensions run high

[TamilNet, Friday, 29 May 2020, 23:14 GMT]
Geopolitics-triggered tensions are running high between the US and China in the South China Sea and between India and China in Galwan valley along the Line of Actual Control in the high mountainous Ladakh union territory of India. While Chinese and US military establishments were issuing statements blaming each other for the escalation, New Delhi remained mostly silent until US President Donald Trump offered to be a “mediator or the arbiter” between New Delhi and Beijing on Wednesday. The Spokesperson of India's Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said India had a direct diplomatic engagement with China on the matter and as “strictly following the procedures laid out in various bilateral agreements and protocols with China to resolve any issue that may arise in the border areas”.

China was reacting furiously as the US Navy was conducting what it claimed as “Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP)”.

USS Mustin, a guided-missile destroyer sailed close to the Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea on Thursday. It was the second FONOP in a month.

According to CNN, the USS Mustin passed within 12 nautical miles of Woody Island and Pyramid Rock, which are both occupied by China. The CNN was quoting a statement by Lt Anthony Junco, a spokesperson for the US Navy's 7th Fleet. “By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are beyond what China can lawfully claim as its territorial sea.”

South China Sea
Map courtesy: Forbes

Global Times, the English version of the paper operated by the Communist Party of China, on Thursday cited Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) spokesperson of Southern Theater Command, Senior Colonel Li Huamin, as describing the US FONOP as provocative and “hegemonic navigational action”. The US was violating China's sovereignty and security interests, Li responded, claiming that PLA had expelled the US warship that had “trespassed into Chinese territorial waters off the Xisha Islands”.

In the meantime, military tensions between India and China increased significantly along the Line of Actual Control in the high mountainous eastern Ladakh, which was formerly a part of the strategic Kashmir region. Indian media has characterised the escalation of conflict as India's worst border tension since the 1999 Kargil war.

Ladakh Line of Actual Control
[Map courtesy: Tweet by @IndoPac_Info]

Following New Delhi's abrogation of the special status of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) in 2019, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir was converted into two Union Territories (UT), separating the largest Ladakh situated east of the disputed J&K.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper was speaking with his Indian counterpart, Rajanth Singh, reiterating “his support for a strong and enduring U.S.-India defense partnership,” over the phone on Friday, according to a readout by his secretary.

Esper wants to visit India at the earliest, mutually-agreeable opportunity, the Pentagon statement said.



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