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There has been a calibrated sharpening of US remarks on the India-China conflict, with the White House setting the tone last week when the spokesperson said President Donald Trump believed that China’s “aggressive stance” on the border with India fit a pattern of “Chinese aggression” around the world.

The US state department took much the same line on Monday shortly after news broke of the Chinese moving their troops back from Patrolling Point 14, site of deadly clashes last month in which 20 Indian and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops were killed on June 15.

A state department spokesperson said the US supported a peaceful resolution of the situation, but, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said on many occasions, “what is so disturbing is the emergence of a clear pattern of Beijing acting increasingly aggressively, both domestically and abroad”.

From the Taiwan Strait to Xinjiang, from the South China Sea to the Himalayas, from cyberspace to international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the spokesperson said “we are dealing with a Chinese Communist Party that seeks to repress its own people and bully its neighbors”.

The official added: “The only way to stop these provocations is by standing up to Beijing and imposing costs on its bad behavior.”

The spokesperson did not explain the “costs”, but in recent days, the United States has announced the end of export of controlled defense equipment to Hong Kong over the new Chinese national security law that western powers have said is violative of China’s international commitments. And Trump has signed into law a bill that sought to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the repression of Uighur minorities.

The president and allies in Congress have also talked about holding China accountable for the spread of the coronavirus by billing it the damages caused to the US economy.

Osh Hawley, a Republican senator from Missouri state, moved a resolution in March that sought to hold China “accountable” for the pandemic and “design a mechanism for delivering compensation from the Government of the People’s Republic of China to all affected nations for the harm caused by its decision to hide the emergence and spread of COVID–19 during the initial weeks of the outbreak”.

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