New Delhi: Weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited India for an informal meet with Narendra Modi in Mahabalipuram, the United States has confirmed that there has been no reduction in Beijing’s assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea, reported PTI. Also Read - ‘Both Countries Should Look at Differences Correctly,’ Says Xi Jinping After India Visit

The US Pacific Fleet Commander, Admiral John Aquilino, who is in India, met Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh and other senior defence officials. Also Read - PM Modi Gifts Hand-woven Silk Potrait to Chinese President Xi Jinping

The dispute in the SCS is between China and several others over the control of the Spratly Islands. Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have staked their claim over the islands. Also Read - A Painting and A Lamp: Here Are the Gifts That PM Modi Presented to Xi Jinping

“I have seen continued bullying of nations in the region. I have seen islands or rocks turned into man-made islands and militarised despite the conversations about those being for defensive purpose,” Admiral Aquilino said.

“They challenge and threaten all the nations in the region our allies, partners and friends. But none of those capabilities has been removed from those islands. So I would say there has been no reduction, and only an increase in pressure from China across the region to achieve their objectives.”

China has militarised some of the reefs, inviting criticism from the claimants and also from countries like the US which have been advocating freedom of navigation in the region.

Replying to a question on the possibility of a Chinese aircraft carrier battle group operating in the Indian Ocean, he said that it won’t be surprising as Beijing intends to operate in a much broader area.

“I would expect to see continued deployments and I would expect to see a carrier deployment. None of that should surprise anyone,” he said.

On increasing footprints of the Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean, he said this would only expand in the coming years.

(With PTI Inputs)