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China today said the US should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, amid reports that America may deploy more troops in the war- torn country, which borders China's volatile Xinjiang province. Such a move is "highly relevant to the development and security of the neighbouring region and the countries", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told media here reacting to reports that US President Donald Trump has given Defence Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan. "So, we contend that any move should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and conducive to the Afghanistan's peace process," Lu said. The US currently has some 8,400 troops in Afghanistan after Trump's predecessor Barack Obama pulled out the majority of American troops leaving a big security vacuum in Afghanistan following which Taliban gained ground in the war-torn country. Mattis, according to The New York Times, is believed to favour sending several thousand more troops to Afghanistan but has not taken a final decision in this regard.
Neither the White House nor the Pentagon confirmed the news. Lu, however, declined to comment on reports from Afghanistan that China has agreed to mediate between Pakistan and Afghanistan so that the two countries can improve their relations. "In principle, I should say China always supports Afghan-led and Afghan peaceful process. Hope relevant regional countries can strengthen cooperation and unity to fight terrorism and stay committed to upholding peace and stability in that region to create an enabling environment for regional development," he said. Pakistan's ties with Afghanistan were severed when a deadly blast in Kabul on May 31 killed 150 people, making it one of the deadliest attacks in the Afghan capital since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. No group claimed responsibly for the attack but the Afghan government blamed the Haqqani network and Pakistan's ISI for it.