BEIJING: China is reportedly building settlements along its disputed border with Bhutan, with more than 200 structures, including two-storey buildings, under construction in six locations, according to satellite image analysis conducted for Reuters.
US data analytics firm HawkEye 360, which uses satellites to gather intelligence on ground-level activities, provide a detailed look into China's recent construction along its frontier with Bhutan.
Construction-related activity in some of the locations along Bhutan's western border has been under way since early 2020, with China initially building tracks and clearing out areas, based on material provided by satellite imagery firms Capella Space and Planet Labs, said Chris Biggers, the mission applications director at HawkEye 360.
According to the survey, smaller structures were erected — possibly to house equipment and supplies — followed by the laying of foundations and then the construction of buildings, Biggers said.
It needs mention here that China has accelerated settlement-building along its disputed border with Bhutan, with more than 200 structures, including two-storey buildings, under construction in six locations, according to satellite image analysis conducted for Reuters.
Bhutan has been negotiating with Beijing for almost four decades to settle their 477-km border.
The Bhutanese foreign ministry said Bhutan and China had agreed during the latest round of boundary negotiations in April 2021 to speed up the process of resolving their differences. It declined to discuss the details of the plan to do so.
“All issues are discussed between Bhutan and China within the framework of the Boundary Talks,” the ministry said.
“China's village building across the claimed Bhutan border appears to be designed to force Bhutan to yield to Chinese demands in their border negotiations, now in their 24th round after 37 years,” said Robert Barnett, a professorial research associate at SOAS University of London, who is an expert on Tibet and has studied the China-Bhutan border closely.
The settlements appear part of a plan Beijing made public in 2017 to build more than 600 villages in border areas in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which lies on the Chinese side of the disputed border.
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