Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a veiled warning to the United States on Wednesday, saying countries should not build up military alliances in Asia, even as Beijing feuds with neighbours in territorial disputes.
Speaking at an Asian regional forum on security, Xi said a rising China would seek “peaceful” means to resolve territorial disputes.
Beijing has sought to counter Washington’s foreign policy “pivot” to Asia, but it has also irritated Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines — the latter two allies of the US — with what those countries say are aggressive moves in separate territorial disputes.
“To beef up an entrenched or military alliance targeted at a third party is not conducive to maintaining common security,” Xi said, without naming names.
Washington’s traditional allies in the Asia-Pacific region include Japan, where it has military bases and whose security it guarantees by treaty, and Australia.
China’s official Xinhua news agency on Tuesday urged countries from outside Asia not to foment tensions.
“Players from other parts of the world need to play a constructive role. They should refrain from starting fires and stoking flames,” it said in an editorial.
Relations between China and Vietnam have worsened after Beijing sent a deep-water oil drilling rig into contested waters in the South China Sea earlier this month, sparking violent Vietnamese protests in which at least two Chinese were killed.
China and Japan have a long-running feud over disputed islands in the East China Sea, while the Philippines accuses China of reclaiming land on a disputed reef within its exclusive economic zone under a United Nations convention.
But Xi said: “China stays committed to seeking peaceful settlement of disputes with other countries over territorial sovereignty, and maritime rights and interests.”
He was speaking at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), a relatively obscure forum which exists alongside other more prominent regional groupings.
Vietnam belongs to the forum, but Japan is only an observer while the Philippines is not a member. The United States has observer status, preferring to work through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.