Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is holding talks with his counterparts from four Southeast Asian nations for three days through Friday, apparently aiming to boost cooperation with them to counter the United States.
China seeks to join hands to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic and the Myanmar crisis with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, some of whose 10 members have enhanced economic relations with Beijing but depend on Washington in security terms.
On Wednesday, Wang told his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan that China "supports ASEAN to uphold the principles of non-interference in internal affairs and help end chaos and resume stability in Myanmar," according to the Foreign Ministry.
During their meeting in China's Fujian Province, Wang was also quoted by the ministry as telling Balakrishnan that the two countries should work together to oppose "vaccine nationalism," calling for joint efforts to upgrade the level of China-ASEAN ties.
Wang's remarks suggest China aims to prevent ASEAN from getting closer to the administration of US President Joe Biden, who took office in January, in the process of tackling the Myanmar issue, foreign affairs experts say.
Beijing is expected to concentrate further on bolstering its influence in Southeast Asia by providing China-developed coronavirus vaccines to ASEAN nations, as it promotes "vaccine diplomacy" across the globe, they added.
China's Communist-led government has refrained from condemning Myanmar's military coup, unlike Japan, the United States and the European Union, as it has traditionally deepened relations with the neighbor in the economic and security fields.
The Global Times, a tabloid affiliated with the ruling Communist Party, said China and some ASEAN members "have been sticking to a neutral position based on the principle of non-interference into other countries' internal affairs" over the Myanmar situation.
"In stark contrast, the US has constantly interfered with other countries' internal affairs through unilateral actions and economic coercion," the newspaper said.
Myanmar is located right on the path of China's strategic plan to gain direct access to the Indian Ocean as part of its "Belt and Road" project for the development of infrastructure and trade across Asia, Europe and Africa.
China, meanwhile, has put emphasis on economic ties with Myanmar, having imported natural resources including gas and crude oil through pipes from the neighbor.
Wang is also scheduled to talk with his counterparts from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines during the three days from Wednesday and to meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui Yong on Saturday.
The Chinese and South Korean ministers are likely to discuss North Korea's recent ballistic missile launch, which the United States has criticized for violating UN Security Council resolutions banning Pyongyang from using any ballistic missile technology.
"China's frequent diplomatic activities have become a countermeasure to US pressure in the region against China," the Global Times said.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.