China admits for first time four of its troops were killed in 2020 India border clash

China has acknowledged for the first time four of its troops were killed in a mountain border clash with Indian forces last year – the deadliest confrontation between the two nations in nearly 45 years.

The rare public admission comes more than seven months after the bloody hand-to-hand combat, which involved nail studded clubs, stones and sticks, due a long standing agreement between both countries not use guns or explosives in the disputed region.

Making the announcement, Beijing said it should help global audiences “understand the truth and the right and wrong of the incident”.

Chinese state media also released edited footage, purported to show the stand-off, although Sky News cannot confirm its authenticity.

Immediately following last June’s clash in the Galwan Valley in the Ladakh region’s Karakoram mountains, India announced it had lost 20 soldiers in the battle.

China, which has a long-standing culture of military secrecy, was also believed to have suffered casualties but did not provide any details at the time.

The People’s Liberation Army Daily newspaper said the four killed have been named as official state martyrs and awarded other posthumous honours.

The officer was awarded the title of “border-defending hero”, while the three soldiers received first-class merit awards.

It attributed their deaths to fighting in “a clash with trespassing foreign military personnel”, without referring to India directly.

Another officer wounded in the clash was awarded the title of “hero regimental commander for defending the border”.

Earlier, unconfirmed reports had put the number of Chinese dead as high as 45.

Lieutenant General YK Joshi, who commands the Indian Army’s Northern Command, said observers counted more than 60 Chinese troops being taken away on stretchers, though it was not clear how many suffered fatal injuries.

The admission by Beijing follows an easing of tensions in the disputed area, with both sides agreeing to pullback earlier this month.

Talks are also continuing aimed at deescalating other potential border flashpoints.

The stand-off in the Karakoram mountains began in early May, when Indian and Chinese soldiers ignored each other’s repeated verbal warnings, triggering a shouting match, stone-throwing and fistfights.

By June, the dispute had escalated and spread north in Depsang and the Galwan Valley, where India has built an all-weather military road along the disputed frontier.

Since the clash, both countries have stationed tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along the 2,100 mile de facto border called the Line of Actual Control, or LAC.

The ill-defined border has often brought patrolling soldiers face-to-face sparking skirmishes.

The two countries have fought only one war in 1962, which led to India’s defeat.

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