China on Wednesday said the border standoff with India was not linked to the relations between the two countries, PTI reported. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian added that the standoff should be addressed through peaceful negotiations.

“We advocate that we should address the boundary issue through peaceful negotiations and we don’t think that the border issue should be linked up to our bilateral ties,” Zhao said at a media briefing in Beijing.

Zhao’s comments came after India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said that China’s military deployment at the border was a challenge for relations between the two neighbours. At the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday, Jaishankar said the onus was on China to adhere to agreements between the two countries on deployment of troops along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.

“The issue is whether China will live up to the commitments it has made,” he had said.

Zhao defended China’s military deployment in the Western sector along the border as a “normal defensive arrangement”. He said it was meant to stop “encroachment or threat against China’s territory”.

Tension has been brewing between India and China for more than a year now. On June 15 last year, Indian and Chinese troops had clashed in eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control, which was the deadliest in 45 years. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the hand-to-hand combat. While Beijing had acknowledged casualties early, it did not disclose details till February, when it said four of its soldiers had died.

On February 19, India and China completed the first phase of disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control at the banks of the Pangong Tso in Ladakh. However, friction points remain between both sides in areas like Gogra Heights, Hot Springs and Depsang Plains.