China not looking to intimidate smaller nations, Xi tells ASEAN

Beijing, Nov 22 (EFE).- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday told leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that China was not seeking to establish a hegemony sought peaceful coexistence.

“China will never seek hegemony, still less bully smaller countries,” the leader said in a virtual keynote address at a conference with the regional bloc, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Xi described China as the “good neighbor, friend and partner of ASEAN,” and said that the two entities had maintained stability in the region and left behind the shadow of the cold war.

During the virtual summit between China and ASEAN, chaired by the Chinese president on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of bilateral ties, the leader said that Beijing and the regional bloc had contributed to mutual development and prosperity and “created better lives for over 2 billion people.”

China and ASEAN on Monday agreed to raise bilateral ties to a comprehensive partnership, despite ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Xi hailed the partnership as a historic landmark in ties and said it would boost peace, stability, prosperity and regional as well as global development.

ASEAN is the latest addition to China’s regional comprehensive economic partnership program, joining a special category of economic and diplomatic ties that Beijing maintain with partners such as the European Union.

The agreement comes amid geopolitical tensions in the South China Sea after the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom announced the AUKUS defense pact to check Beijing’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Chinese government claims nearly 90 percent of the maritime space of the Sea, which is key for international trade and holds important mineral and natural reserves, with contesting claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and Indonesia.

In the latest dispute, the Philippines on Thursday condemned the “illegal” actions of three Chinese coastguard boats that blocked two Philippine supply vessels and fired water cannons towards them.

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