Sporty fighters join border army

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 29 Jun 2020

China reinforced its troops near the Indian border with mountain climbers and martial arts fighters just before a deadly clash this month, state media reported.

This month's fighting was their deadliest encounter in more than 50 years.

Five new militia divisions including former members of a Mount Everest Olympic torch relay team and fighters from a mixed martial arts club presented themselves for inspection at Lhasa on June 15, official military newspaper China National Defense News reported.

CCTV showed footage of hundreds of new troops lining up in the Tibetan capital.

Tibet commander Wang Haijiang said the Enbo Fight Club recruits would "greatly raise the organization and mobilization strength" of troops and their "rapid response and support ability," Defense News reported, although he did not explicitly confirm their deployment was linked to ongoing border tensions.

Chinese and Indian troops clashed later that day in the most violent confrontation in the Ladakh region 1,300 kilometers away.

India says 20 of its own soldiers were killed in brutal hand-to-hand combat that day, while China suffered an unknown number of casualties.

Both sides have blamed each other for the battle, which was fought with rocks and batons without any shots fired.

India said it had reinforced troops in the Himalayan border region, saying it was matching a similar buildup by China.

Chinese state media have in recent weeks highlighted military activity including high-altitude anti-aircraft drills in the Tibet region bordering India.

The new troops were recruited with the aim of "strengthening the border and stabilizing Tibet," Defense News said.

India claims Chinese troops ambushed Indian soldiers and forced them down a ridge where they had gone to remove a Chinese "encroachment."

A bilateral accord prevents the use of guns, but the fighting was still fierce.

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