By Humeyra Pamuk and Jonathan Landay
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday accused China of taking "incredibly aggressive action" in a recent clash with India over a disputed section of the nuclear-armed neighbors' border, saying Beijing had a pattern of instigating territorial disputes.
On the night of June 15, Chinese forces and Indian troops fought for hours with rods and clubs, a dramatic escalation that left 20 Indian soldiers killed, with some falling to their deaths in the freezing waters of the Galwan river in the western Himalayas.
On Monday, Indian government sources said China began pulling back troops from along the border with India, after weeks of talks between senior military officials on how to ease tensions. China has yet to confirm whether it suffered casualties but the Indian deaths were the highest along the border in more than five decades.
"The Chinese took incredibly aggressive action. The Indians have done their best to respond to that," Pompeo said in a news conference at the State Department. "I’d put this in the context of General Secretary Xi Jinping and his behavior throughout the region, and indeed, throughout the world."
"From the mountain ranges of the Himalayas to the waters of Vietnam's Exclusive Zone, to the Senkaku Islands, and beyond, Beijing has a pattern of instigating territorial disputes. The world shouldn’t allow this bullying to take place, nor should it permit it to continue," Pompeo said.
His comments reflect the deep running tensions between Washington and Beijing, which have been at loggerheads over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, China's actions in the former British colony of Hong Kong and a nearly two-year trade dispute between the U.S. and China.
The Chinese military on Monday was seen dismantling tents and structures at a site in the Galwan valley near where the latest clash took place, said the Indian government sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
(Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Bernadette Baum)