BEIJING: China today defended the presence of its troops in the Dokalam area, over a month after the standoff with India ended, saying its soldiers are patrolling the region, also claimed by Bhutan, to exercise Beijing's sovereignty.
"The Donglang (Doklam) area has always belonged to China and has been under the effective jurisdiction of China," the Chinese Foreign Ministry told PTI here in response to questions about a report that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is beefing up troops in the area.
"There is no dispute. The Chinese border forces have been patrolling in the area of Donglang, exercising their sovereign rights and safeguarding territorial sovereignty according to the historical boundary," the ministry said in a written response.
The 73-day Dokalam standoff which began on June 16 over PLA's plans to build a road in area claimed by Bhutan, ended on August 28 following mutual agreement between India and China.
Recent reports in India said China has beefed up its troop strength in the area.
Yesterday, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said Chinese troops were currently present in the Chumbi Valley, which is in the Dokalam Plateau, and added that a peaceful resolution of the issue would be in the interest of both countries.
"The two sides are not in a physical face-off as we speak. However, their forces in Chumbi Valley are still deployed and I expect them to withdraw as their exercise in the area gets over," Dhanoa said.
About Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar's visit to Bhutan, the first such visit after the Dokalam standoff, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said "although China and Bhutan have not yet established diplomatic relations, the two countries have maintained traditional friendly relations".
It said China has always respected Bhutan's sovereignty and independence.
"China hopes that other countries also respect Bhutan's sovereignty and independence and develop normal bilateral relations with Bhutan, at the same time also hopes it can help enhance the mutual trust between regional countries, safeguarding regional peace and stability," it said.