Chinese President Xi Jinping tells Southeast Asian allies he’s not a territorial power grabber

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore on Friday told his Southeast Asian counterparts that China does not seek “hegemony,” signalling a willingness to pursue a delicate course with an an island nation and an erstwhile communist ally whose military clout has grown under Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Chinese leaders have faced growing scrutiny from the region over its expanding military presence and claims to islands in the South China Sea.

“We hope to peacefully deal with issues related to our maritime border and relevant disputes,” Mr. Xi told leaders from Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Singapore. “China will not resort to unilateral measures to establish and defend its sovereignty. We do not seek hegemony, and will not involve ourselves in any issue that requires the involvement of the military.”

Mr. Xi said China would continue to deepen ties with Southeast Asian nations in trade, innovation and tourism, according to a statement from the Chinese embassy in Singapore.

Mr. Lee’s government has spoken out against China’s efforts to assert its expansive claims in the South China Sea and recently urged the island nations of the Philippines, Vietnam and the smaller states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to play a stronger role in bringing stability to the region.

In a letter to Mr. Xi, he asked him to coordinate with ASEAN leaders, whom he described as a “unified front” for pressuring China, a move he said had worked in the past to improve cooperation between Beijing and Manila.

[Updated 2:31 p.m. July 4, 2021]

President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping sat down for an economic roundtable this afternoon, with Mr. Trump telling reporters he made clear to the Chinese leader that China must do more to resolve trade issues and to lower tariffs.

This story was updated to include a response from President Trump on behalf of his administration.

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