Chinese President Xi Jinping says his country won’t use its position to seek hegemony over its neighbours days after a flare-up in a maritime dispute with the Philippines.
China has said it will not seek dominance over Southeast Asia or bully its smaller neighbours, amid ongoing friction over the South China Sea.
“China resolutely opposes hegemonism and power politics, wishes to maintain friendly relations with its neighbours," Chinese leader Xi Jinping said on Monday.
"China will jointly nurture lasting peace in the region and absolutely will not seek hegemony or even less, bully the small," he added.
Xi made the remarks during a virtual conference with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, held to mark the 30th anniversary of relations between China and the grouping.
China has repeatedly sought to overcome concerns about its rising power and influence in the region, particularly its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea that overlaps the claims of ASEAN members Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines.
Sea standoff with Philippines
Xi’s remarks came days after Chinese coast guard ships blocked and sprayed a powerful stream of water at two Philippine boats carrying supplies to troops at a disputed South China Sea shoal and forced them to turn back.
In his remarks at the conference, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called on China to respect the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which establishes maritime entitlements as he referred to the shoal by its Philippine name, "Ayungin Shoal".
He also said sovereign rights over maritime zones, along with a 2016 Hague arbitration ruling that mostly invalidated China’s South China Sea claims.
China has refused to recognise the ruling.