China’s leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping (習近平) sought to reassure Southeast Asian leaders yesterday that his country wanted only peaceful relations with them, following months of growing tensions over the strategically located South China Sea.
Speaking at the opening of a trade fair in southern China for ASEAN members, Chinese Vice President Xi said China’s prosperity could only be guaranteed by good relations with its neighbors.
“Having gone through numerous vicissitudes in modern times, we are deeply aware of the importance of development and how valuable peace is,” he said, according to state media.
Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty over a vast stretch of the South China Sea has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia also lay claim to other parts of the region.
At stake are potentially massive offshore oil reserves. The seas also lie on key shipping lanes.
Xi said China — currently also involved in a dispute with Japan over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea — wanted peaceful resolutions.
“We are firm in safeguarding China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and are committed to resolving differences with neighbors concerning territorial land, territorial sea and maritime rights and interests peacefully through friendly negotiations,” he said.
China has resisted proposals for a multilateral code of conduct for the South China Sea, preferring to try to negotiate disputes with each of the far less powerful individual claimants.