As if to underline the warning, a Chinese newspaper on Friday reported that the People’s Liberation Army had recently held artillery exercises with live ammunition in Tibet, the region near the disputed land. The Global Times, a popular party-run paper, said on its website that the exercises, at 15,000 feet above sea level, included simulated long-distance attacks on armored units and missile launchers.
The standoff over the territory started in June, when Bhutan discovered Chinese workers extending an unpaved road on the Doklam Plateau, part of the disputed territory. When India sent troops and equipment to halt the roadwork and push back the Chinese workers, China accused India of intruding into its territory and of strong-arming Bhutan into going along. Since then Indian and Chinese troops have held a wary standoff hundreds of feet from each other.
On Wednesday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a 15-page paper laying out its version of events and basis for claiming the territory.
And on Friday, an editorial in People’s Daily, the main official paper of the Chinese Communist Party, amplified the warnings that Beijing would not back down.
“No country should underestimate the determination of the Chinese government and people to defend territorial sovereignty,” the unsigned editorial said. “China will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests.”
Neither side appears to be gearing up for military conflict. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the number of Indian troops in the area claimed by Beijing had fallen from a maximum of 400 to about 48 on Thursday.
“There are still a large number of Indian armed forces congregating on the boundary and on the Indian side of the boundary,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said on Thursday.
But even if the military jostling dies down, the dispute has brought to a head a souring in Chinese-Indian relations.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, and China’s president, Xi Jinping, have tried to warm relations by promoting trade and personal rapport. But the 2,520-mile-long border between the two countries is rife with longstanding territorial disputes involving them and their neighbors, and in 1962 the two countries fought a brief war that ended badly for India. Negotiations since the 1980s to settle the disputes have made little progress.
A quarrel flared in 2015 while Mr. Modi visited China to smooth over rifts and promote economic ties.
Public opinion in both countries bristles at any challenges to territorial claims, and Mr. Xi emphasized this week that the People’s Liberation Army should stand prepared to ward off threats to Chinese sovereignty.
“We will never permit anybody, any organization, any political party to split off any piece of Chinese territory from China at any time or in any form,” Mr. Xi said in Beijing on Tuesday at a meeting to mark 90 years since the army was formed. “Nobody would nurse any hope that we will swallow the bitter fruit of harm to our national sovereignty, security and development interests.”
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