Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers his speech on “Forging A Strong Partnership To Enhance Prosperity Of Asia” at the 36th Singapore Lecture on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. AP Photo
SINGAPORE, Singapore—Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday repeated his country’s uncompromising claims to the South China Sea but pledged that it would not “bully” its weaker neighbors.
The comments by Xi were in line with China’s oft-stated position but come as Beijing’s assertiveness in the strategic waterway has raised concerns of potential future conflict.
“Let me make this clear: The South China Sea islands have been China’s territory since ancient times,” Xi said in a speech during a visit to Singapore.
“It is the bounded duty of the Chinese government to uphold China’s territorial sovereignty and legitimate maritime right and interests.”
China has long laid verbal claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, but in recent years has moved to back that up.
It is now using land reclamation to expand previously insignificant sea features into full-fledged islands and further underpin its claims.
China’s neighbors have said the actions violate a regional code among the rival claimants against taking actions that upset the status quo.
Xi said some “Chinese” islands are currently being “occupied” by other countries, but vowed that China’s intentions were peaceful.
“What we in China believe… is that the strong and rich should not bully the weak and poor,” he said.