China and U.S. Shouldn’t Compete in Asia Region, Wang Says

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Asia-Pacific will be a testing ground for relations with the U.S. and that leaders won’t allow instability on the Korean Peninsula.

China is ready to work with the U.S. to uphold peace in the region, Wang said at a briefing during the annual session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing. He said the Korean peninsula can only enjoy peace with denuclearizaton.

China will “never allow war or instability on the Korean peninsula,” Wang said. “First, we need to climb the slope of denuclearization.”

Wang sought to allay concern of a conflict from China’s increased diplomatic and military presence in the region while stressing the country wouldn’t back down on territorial disputes. On March 6, China’s central government announced it would increase military spending 12.2 percent this year to 808.2 billion yuan ($131.9 billion).

“The Asia-Pacific should be a testing ground to our commitment to build a new model of relations rather than a competitive arena,” Wang said of ties with the U.S.

While the U.S. has said it doesn’t take a stand on territorial disputes in the region, it has affirmed that islands in the East China Sea at the center of a territorial dispute between China and Japan are covered by a mutual defense treaty with Japan.

The U.S. has also said it doesn’t recognize China’s “nine-dash line” that the country uses to claim a large swathe of territory in the South China Sea.

Smaller Countries

“We will never bully smaller countries yet we will never accept unreasonable demands from smaller countries,” Wang said. “On issues of territory and sovereignty China’s position is firm and clear. We will not take anything that is not ours but we will defend every inch of territory that belongs to us.”

On relations with Japan, Wang, who served as ambassador there from 2004-2007, said the current state of relations didn’t serve the interests of either side. Ties between the two have become strained over the island dispute along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine, which honors the country’s fallen soldiers including some war criminals.

Wang accused Japanese leaders of breaking the spirit of their decision to resume diplomatic ties in 1972. At that time, the two countries reached an understanding on handling history, the disputed islands and Taiwan, he said.

“The recent comments and actions of the Japanese leader betrayed the spirit of 1972 and undermined the foundation of China-Japan relations,” he said.

Asked about the situation in Ukraine, Wang called for calm and political negotiations. He praised China’s relations with Russia.

— With assistance by Henry Sanderson

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