Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

Chinese leader Xi Jinping says his country will not seek dominance over Southeast Asia or bully its smaller neighbors as friction across the South China Sea increases.

China has repeatedly sought to overcome concerns about its rising power and influence in the region, especially its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, which overlaps with claims by Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines.

“China is determined against hegemony and power politics, wants to maintain friendly relations with its neighbors and cultivate lasting lasting peace in the region and will absolutely not seek hegemony or even less, bully the little ones,” Xi said Monday at an Association of Southeast -Asia said. Nations (ASEAN) Conference.

Xi’s remarks come days after Chinese Coast Guard ships blocked and sprayed a powerful stream of water at two Philippine boats transporting supplies to troops at a disputed South China Sea school and forcing them to turn back.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte condemned the incident and referred to the school with his Filipino name.

“We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view other similar developments with serious concern. “It does not bode well for the relations between our nations and our partnership,” Duterte said at the meeting.

“Sea of ​​peace”

Duterte also called on China to respect the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which establishes maritime rights and sovereign rights over maritime zones, together with A 2016 Hague arbitration award which mostly invalidated China’s South China Sea claims.

China has refused to acknowledge the ruling.

“We must make full use of these legal instruments to ensure that the South China Sea remains a sea of ​​peace, stability and prosperity,” Duterte said.

Duterte condemned the confrontation on Monday in his remarks at the ASEAN conference [File: Reuters]

The Philippines on Monday redeployed the two supply boats to supply food to Marines based at Second Thomas Shoal aboard a World War II warship that deliberately ran aground in 1999 in a move to bolster its claim.

Chinese vessels surrounded the school and demanded that the Philippines tow away the ship, the BRP Sierra Madre.

China has sought to bolster its presence in the waterway, home to major shipping lanes, fish stocks and submarine oil and gas deposits, by building landing strips and other features on islands created by stacking sand and concrete on top of coral reefs.

China’s powerful navy, coastguard and maritime militia have also tried to stop movements across regional countries from exploiting resources within their exclusive economic zones, and this strongly opposes operations by the US and other foreign armies in the region.

China and ASEAN have been negotiating a code of conduct for business in the South China Sea for years, but those talks have made little progress.

‘Exercise self-control’

The Malaysian Prime Minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, also raised the issue in his speech at the ASEAN conference, saying: with universally recognized principles of international law.

“Malaysia calls on all countries to remain committed to maintaining the South China Sea as a sea of ​​peace, stability and trade,” his office quoted him as saying. “To this end, all parties must exercise restraint and avoid actions that may be considered provocative, which could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the area.”

In other remarks, Xi said peace is the “greatest common interest” for all sides, and China will do its utmost to avoid conflict.

“We must be the builders and protectors of regional peace, insist on dialogue instead of confrontation, partnership and inequality, and join hands to address several negative factors that threaten to undermine peace,” Xi said.

“We must practice true multilateralism and insist on dealing with international and regional issues through negotiation.”

The US warned China on Friday that an armed attack on Philippine vessels would provoke a US response under its treaty obligations to the Southeast Asian nation.

The European Union also called on “all parties to respect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea”.

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