President Xi Jinping says Beijing wants to play a leading role in maintaining peace in Asia
China on Thursday asserted that it will not allow the breakout of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula and signalled its readiness to play a leading role in maintaining peace in Asia—a position that could increase friction between Beijing and Washington.
“As a close neighbour, we will absolutely not permit war or chaos on the peninsula. This situation would not benefit anyone,” announced Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, during his address to Foreign Ministers participating in the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January, followed by tests of missiles that could carry atomic warheads.
In a signal to the U.S., President Xi also emphasised that there was no room for outside powers, or internationalisation, for resolving differences among Asian countries, which have rival territorial claims in the South China Sea.
“We insist we should peacefully resolve the disputes through friendly consultations and negotiations with other parties directly involved,” he observed.
Some analysts say Mr. Xi’s comments signal China’s rejection of U.S. interference, including “freedom of navigation” naval patrols in the South China Sea. The President’s insistence on direct talks with other claimants—chiefly Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan—is also meant to reinforce China’s rejection of international arbitration to resolve the South China Sea disputes, they say. The Chinese side has repeatedly slammed Manila’s decision to petition the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to settle its maritime claims with Beijing.
Russia has also backed China’s approach. Following a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that Moscow opposed any interference from third parties, “or any attempts to internationalise these disputes”.
Ahead of Thursday’s conference, a commentary in the state-run Xinhua news agency highlighted China’s readiness to anchor security in the region. “China, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and the largest country in Asia, bears important responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting security in the region,” the write-up said.
It added China is working with other CICA members to formulate an action plan for the next two years to implement confidence-building measures. In tune with the rising tensions with Washington in the South China Sea, China has sought to bolster its nuclear deterrence by successfully testing the DF-41 long-range ballistic missile. The weapon would apparently take only 30 minutes to cover its maximum 12,000km range, and deliver multiple strikes on its target. The test coincided with the inspection of an artificial island in the Spratly group of islands by Gen. Fan Changlong, a top-ranking officer of the People’s Liberation Army. The Chinese have also announced this month the landing of a military aircraft on an artificial island in the Spratly islands on a 3,000 meter runway, which could be used by heavy bombers and fighter jets, significantly extending Beijing’s military reach in the Asia-Pacific.