China said on Thursday that an Indian drone recently “invaded” its airspace before crashing in the Chinese side of the Sikkim border, prompting it to lodge a diplomatic protest with India over the violation of its territorial sovereignty.
“Recently, an Indian unmanned aerial vehicle invaded China’s aerospace in the Sikkim section of the China-India border,” spokesperson of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs Geng Shuang said at the regular briefing of the ministry on Thursday.
Geng said “solemn representations” against the incident was lodged with India but didn’t specify whether it was filed in Beijing or New Delhi.
Geng added that the Chinese military handled the situation in a “professional” way. He said the China-India border in Sikkim has been “delimited” and the “invasion” violated China’s sovereignty and wasn’t “conducive for peace and tranquillity” in the region.
He did not share information on exactly where on the Sino-India border was the drone found or how Chinese military personnel came to the conclusion that the drone belonged to India.
Geng said China has urged India to stop the “activities” of such devices at the border and work with China to maintain peace at the border.
An earlier official media report by the Xinhua news agency said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had voiced dissatisfaction with the “intrusion”.
“The Indian UAV intruded into China’s airspace and crashed recently, and China’s border troops have conducted identification and verification over the vehicle,” Xinhua quoted Zhang Shuili, deputy head of the combat bureau of the Western Theater Command’s joint staff department, as saying.
“India’s move has infringed upon China’s territorial sovereignty, and we are strongly dissatisfied with and opposed to this,” Zhang said.
“We will fulfill our mission and responsibility and defend China’s national sovereignty and security resolutely,” he noted.
There was no immediate response from the Indian defence ministry.
The military’s charge comes ahead of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s visit to New Delhi to take part in the Russia-India-China (RIC) Foreign Ministers meeting to be held on December 11. Geng told media on Wednesday that Wang will meet top Indian officials on the sidelines of the meeting.
This will be the first visit by a top Chinese official to India after the Doklam crisis and commencement of second five-year term after Chinese President Xi Jinping.
It is expected to be followed by the 20th round of India-China boundary talks in New Delhi between Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who are the designated Special Representatives.
The Chinese military’s claim comes about two months after the two governments resolved a 70-odd day standoff between their border troops near the Sikkim boundary.
China accused Indian troops in June of trespassing into Doklam, which the Chinese refer to as Donglang, a disputed territory on the China-Bhutan-India trijunction near the Sikkim border. Beijing claims it to be Chinese territory but Bhutan disputes it.