President Xi Jinping told leaders of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) at a summit on Monday that Beijing would not "bully" its smaller regional neighbours amid rising tension over the South China Sea.
"China was, is, and will always be a good neighbour, good friend, and good partner of Asean," Xi said.
China would never seek hegemony nor take advantage of its size to coerce smaller countries, and would work with Asean to eliminate "interference", the president said.
Xi told the summit that China and Asean had "cast off the gloom of the Cold War" – when the region was wracked by superpower competition and conflicts such as the Vietnam War – and had jointly maintained regional stability.
"We will implement in earnest our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, and make new strides toward building a closer China-Asean community with a shared future," he said.
The summit started without a Myanmar representative present, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting. The reason for the non-attendance was not immediately clear, and a spokesperson for Myanmar's military government did not answer calls seeking comment.
Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (Xinhua/Reuters)