The United States said on Wednesday that the tension on the border between India and China in Ladakh and Sikkim was a reminder of the fact that Chinese aggression can be real, not merely rhetorical. America’s remarks came after Indian and Chinese armies rushed in additional troops in areas around Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley in Ladakh, PTI reported.

“The flareups on the border, I think, are a reminder that Chinese aggression is not always just rhetorical,” Alice Wells, the head of the South and Central Asia bureau in the US Department of State, said. “And so whether it is the South China Sea or whether it is along the border with India, we continue to see provocations and disturbing behaviour by China.”

Earlier this month, there had been reports of China pitching tents near river Galwan, which was also a flash point between New Delhi and Beijing during the 1962 war, NDTV reported. Wells said on Wednesday that China’s behaviour poses questions about how it seeks to use its growing power.

“That’s why you’ve seen a rallying of like-minded nations whether it is in ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations] or through other diplomatic groupings like the trilateral with the US, Japan and India, or the Quad,” Wells said. She added that these groups are attempting to “reinforce the principles of the post-World War II global order that supported free and open trade”.

On May 5, the Indian Army had alleged that Chinese soldiers became aggressive on the Ladakh border, following which there was a physical brawl between the two sides. The scuffle took place on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control. China treats Aksai Chin in Ladakh as a disputed area.

Indian and Chinese soldiers were also involved in a face-off on May 9 at Naku La in North Sikkim, resulting in minor injuries to several soldiers on both sides.

In 2017, Indian and Chinese troops engaged in a 74-day standoff in Doklam on the Sikkim border. The Chinese Army accused the Indian military of stopping the construction of a road in what it claims is China’s “sovereign territory” in the Sikkim sector. China then stopped the annual Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

China also claims sovereignty over the South China Sea. Apart from China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have also staked claim to the region, and it has been used by the Japanese, and Southeast Asian navies. The United States has been involved in a tussle with China over the South China Sea, and has tried to preserve what is calls the “freedom of navigation” there.