Xi tells Southeast Asian leaders China does not seek ‘hegemony’

Beijing’s territorial claims to the sea collide with those of several Southeast Asian nations and have raised alarm from Washington to Tokyo.

But Xi said China will never seek hegemony or use its size to coerce smaller countries and will work with ASEAN to eliminate “interference.”

“China was, is and always will be a good neighbor, a good friend and a good partner of ASEAN,” Chinese state media quoted Xi as saying.

China’s assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea has pitted it against ASEAN members Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also claim shares.

The Philippines on Thursday condemned the actions of three Chinese coast guard ships that it said blocked and used water cannons on refueling ships heading toward an atoll in the Philippine-occupied sea.

On Friday, the United States called China’s actions “dangerous, provocative and unjustified” and warned that an armed attack on Philippine vessels would invoke the United States’ mutual defense commitments.

Analysis: The Long Arm of China's New Maritime Law Risks Conflict with the US and Japan

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told the Xi-organized summit that he “hates” the altercation and said the rule of law was the only way out of the dispute. He referred to a 2016 international arbitration ruling that found that China’s maritime claim on the sea had no legal basis.

“This does not speak well of relations between our nations,” said Duterte, who will step down next year and has been criticized in the past for failing to condemn China’s conduct in the disputed waters.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Myanmar does not show up

Xi said at the summit that China and ASEAN had “rid themselves of the pessimism of the Cold War,” when the region was rocked by competition from superpowers and conflicts such as the Vietnam War, and jointly maintained regional stability.

China frequently criticizes the United States for “Cold War thinking” when Washington engages its regional allies to roll back Beijing’s growing military and economic influence.

US President Joe Biden joined ASEAN leaders for a virtual summit in October and promised further engagement with the region.

The summit was held without a Myanmar representative, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said on Monday. The reason for the absence was not immediately clear, and a Myanmar military government spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment.

ASEAN flagged Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who has led a bloody crackdown on dissent since taking power on February 1, from last month’s virtual summits for his inability to advance the implementation of an agreed peace plan, in an unprecedented exclusion for the bloc.

Myanmar refused to send a lower representation and blamed ASEAN for departing from its principle of non-interference and yielding to Western pressure.

China pushed for Min to attend the summit, according to diplomatic sources.


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