Jakarta, Sep 6 (EFE).- Chinese Premier Li Qiang said on Wednesday that China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) “relentlessly pursue peace” in the backdrop of rising territorial tensions between Beijing and several countries in the region.
“We both relentlessly pursue peace, have a strong aspiration for development, and take real actions to preserve regional stability,” Li said in his opening speech at a meeting with ASEAN leaders on the sidelines of the bloc’s two-day summit, which kicked off on Tuesday in Jakarta.
“As long as we stay on the right track, no matter what, China-ASEAN cooperation will be stronger than ever and we will achieve greater development.” he added.
Li’s remarks come amid escalated tensions in the South China Sea, which is claimed almost entirely by Beijing and where it disputes territories with some ASEAN countries, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines.
In recent months, some countries, such as the Philippines, have reported an escalation in attacks by the Chinese coast guard on their ships, using water cannons and military lasers.
Last week, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, along with India and Taiwan, protested against a new map released by China showing disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Li’s closed-door meeting with ASEAN leaders is expected to address disputes and try to push for a code of conduct that has been on the table for years.
Before the discussions, Li stressed the “close cooperation” between ASEAN and China, which is the bloc’s largest trading partner, noting that “over the past ten years, we have evolved hand-in-hand and contributed to each other’s success.”
“China took the initiative to elevate the relationship to strategic partnership in 2021,” he said, adding that his country has “kept the market open for both.”
ASEAN nations, which include Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei, are also part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world’s largest free trade agreement with 15 Asia-Pacific members, including China, which first proposed it in 2012 in response to the United S-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
China is seeking to consolidate its influence in the region to counter the US, whose vice president, Kamala Harris, arrived in Jakarta on Tuesday night to take part in the summit.
She is expected to send a message about the US commitment to the area. EFE