Chinese defence minister General Wei Fenghe said on Sunday that India and China are working together for peace along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and that maintaining a good relationship meets the interests of both countries.

“China and India are neighbours and maintaining a good relationship meets the interests of both countries. And that is what we are working on,” Wei said, addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. However, he went on to claim, “We have found lot of weapons owned by the Indian side. They (Indians) have also sent people to the Chinese side of the territory”

Asked about the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India, he said: “We have had 15 rounds of talks at commander level with the Indians and we are working together for peace in this area.”

The next round of commander level talks is expected soon. As a result of the talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process last year on the north and south banks of the Pangong lake and in the Gogra area.

Wei’s comments came less than 24 hours after US defence secretary

James Austin said at the same platform that China is hardening its position along the LAC and that the US believes that India’s “growing military capability and technological prowess can be a stabilising force in the region”.

Last week, US Army’s Pacific commanding general Charles A Flynn had said that some of the defence infrastructure that is being created by China near its border with India in Ladakh was “alarming”, terming the Chinese activity in the region “eye-opening”.

Flynn had also said on a visit to India on Wednesday that the “destabilising and corrosive” behaviour of the Chinese Communist Party in the Indo-Pacific region was not helpful. His comments drew a sharp reaction from China, which said India and China can resolve their boundary issue bilaterally.

Meanwhile, in response to another question about reports last year on construction of more than 100 new nuclear missile silos in China’s east, the Chinese defence minister said China “has always pursued an appropriate path to developing nuclear capabilities for protection of our country”.

He said nuclear weapons displayed at a 2019 military parade in Beijing – which included upgraded launchers for China’s DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles – were operational and deployed.

“China’s … policy is consistent. We use it for self-defence. We will not be the first to use nuclear (weapons),” Wei said, adding that the ultimate goal of China’s nuclear arsenal was to prevent nuclear war.

Last year, the US State Department called China’s nuclear build-up “concerning” and said it appeared that China was deviating from decades of nuclear strategy based around minimal deterrence. It called on China to engage with it “on practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilising arms races”.

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