Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a new regional security cooperation structure that would "suit Asia's unique traits" and also a new crisis-control mechanism to prevent regional issues from flaring up, as he continued to advocate his "Asian security concept".
Speaking to foreign ministers from 26 states at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (Cica), Mr Xi also outlined China's stance on several key regional issues like the South China Sea territorial disputes that could hurt Asia's security prospects.
Noting the long-running concerns among many over the South China Sea issue, Mr Xi said he wanted to stress China's commitment in maintaining peace and stability in the region and pledged to work with Asean countries in turning the maritime hub into a "sea of peace, friendship and cooperation".
"While China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty, rights and interests, it is willing to peacefully solve the disputes through friendly consultation and dialogue with the countries directly involved," he added, amid rising fears of increased tensions from an impending ruling by an international tribunal.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is set to give its ruling by early June on a case initiated by the Philippines on the legality of China's claims, which span almost 90 per cent of the South China Sea.
China has refused to participate in the tribunal proceedings nor accept its ruling which, if it is in Manila's favour, could prompt more Asean claimant states such as Vietnam to follow the Philippines' actions or be used by others to pressure Beijing into clarifying or scaling back its vast territorial claims.
On the North Korean nuclear threat, Mr Xi also pledged that Beijing would not allow war and chaos to break out on the Korean Peninsula, as it would benefit no one.
Friction has surfaced in the relationship between Pyongyang and its closest ally Beijing after the North conducted its fourth nuclear test in January, followed by other weapons tests.
Yesterday, Pyongyang test-fired a second intermediate-range ballistic missile which appeared to have been a failure, a South Korean Defence Ministry official said, hours after another missile crashed after launch.
Ahead of the first congress in 37 years by the ruling Workers' Party set to take place next Friday, North Korea is also expected to conduct another nuclear test.
Mr Xi yesterday tasked officials from the 26 member-states of Cica - a forum for dialogue and consultation on Asian security issues set up in 1992 - to brainstorm ideas for a new security cooperation structure that builds on similar existing structures, without naming any.
"We should persist with or promote the Asian way that has been formed over a long period and is based on mutual respect, consensus-building, and mutual concern," he added.
"With this as foundation, we should take gradual steps in building a new regional security cooperation structure that complements Asia's unique traits."
The two new initiatives were broached yesterday by the Chinese President to help advance the Asian security concept that he unveiled at the 2014 Cica summit hosted by China in Shanghai when it took over the group's two-year rotating presidency, which has been extended till 2018.
The concept, which is premised on the message that Asia's security should be left to Asians and not involve outsiders, was seen as Beijing's move to weaken the role of the United States in the region's security.
The Xinhua news agency reported yesterday that China was working on a new plan for international cooperation in the South China Sea and its neighbouring waters to cover the next five years.