Beijing: In an apparent jab at the US, China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, said on Monday that China, Japan, and South Korea needed to send a strong message of coming together in favour of cooperation and rebuff "the coercion of bullying and domination."
The comments were made at a time when tensions are at an all-time high as the US works to strengthen its alliances with Japan and South Korea in an effort to counter China's expanding regional influence.
Wang was speaking at a forum hosted by the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat, an organisation established by agreement between Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo, about efforts to rekindle cooperation between the three neighbours.
He urged them to "foster a sense of strategic autonomy, maintain regional unity and stability, resist the return of the Cold War mentality, and be free from the coercion of bullying and domination," according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Although Wang refrained from mentioning the US, he claimed that "certain major countries outside the region" had attempted to undermine unity in order to gain geographical advantage.
Wang continued, "If this trend is allowed to continue, it will not only seriously impede the smooth development of trilateral cooperation but also heighten conflict and tension in the region.
Wang emphasised the importance of using dialogue and consultation to resolve differences and avoiding actions or words that might incite war in the area.
Wang also called for accelerating discussions on free trade zones and initiatives to open up and facilitate trade among neighbours at the event in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao.
Wang reaffirmed Beijing's opposition to Japan's proposal to discharge treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean, claiming that it would have an adverse impact on the marine ecosystem and public safety.
The event featured video links from the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea, Hayashi Yoshimasa and Park Jin.