China holds live fire drills, as border dispute with India enters fifth week

 A Chinese soldier stands near an Indian soldier at the ancient Nathu La border crossing.

Story highlights

  • Border dispute showing no sign of de-escalating
  • Chinese military conducted live fire drill in nearby Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

(CNN)The Chinese government has issued a warning to neighboring India to withdraw its troops from the disputed Doklam border area to "avoid further escalation of the situation."

The comments, made by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang during a regular press briefing Tuesday, come amid what has evolved into an increasingly bitter and entrenched border dispute between the two nations.
    The standoff, now entering into its fifth week, centers on a thin strip of land in the junction with Bhutan. Though not a part of Indian territory, the area is close to the "chicken's neck," a strategic corridor that serves as a vital artery between Delhi and its far northeastern states.
      Indian troops parade during the country's National Day.

      Bellicose media

      The dispute appears to have escalated in recent days, say analysts, with both Beijing and Delhi looking to consolidate their positions. On Monday, China conducted live-fire drills in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau close to the site of the current standoff. The aim of the drills, according to reports in Chinese state media, was to improve troops' "combat capability in such locations."
      An increasingly bellicose domestic media environment has further added to the sense of intractability surrounding the dispute, with press reports from both sides calling on leaders to protect the "sovereignty" and "honor" of their respective nations.
        A widely circulated op-ed, published by the Chinese tabloid the Global Times on Tuesday, urged India to back down or "face the consequence of an all-out confrontation."
        The commentary repeated unconfirmed reports in the Indian press that Indian troops are now stationed at the border area and have set up logistical support. "In response, China must continue strengthening border construction and speed up troop deployment and construction in the Doklam area," said the op-ed.

        Territorial claims

        The Doklam dispute is the latest in a long-running series of territorial flare-ups between India and China. In 1962, the two countries engaged in a bloody border war and skirmishes have continued to break out sporadically in the decades since.
        "I'm not sure how this situation de-escalates, not just because of the media hype on both sides, but also because China may not have an interest in de-escalating," said Yvonne Chiu, assistant professor at the Department of Politics at the University of Hong Kong.
        A Chinese soldier (L) and an Indian soldier stand guard at the Chinese side of the ancient Nathu La border crossing between India and China.
        "Unlike flashpoints in the South and East China Seas, a small conflict with India can be better contained because it is less likely to draw the involvement of other major powers in the region (such as the US)," added Chiu.
        The conflict, if contained, could potentially serve several useful purposes for China, said Chiu, including "better establishing one of its regional territorial claims, giving its domestic audience something to cheer for, and giving its military some practice."
        The dispute began on June 16, when China accused Indian border guards in the northeastern state of Sikkim of crossing into its territory in southwestern Tibet, in an attempt to obstruct the construction of a new mountain road. India has not denied its troops were present in the area. According to a