China has no desire to compete for the world’s leadership, the country’s foreign minister has said, as Beijing steps up a charm offensive to win over its Southeast Asian neighbours. Wang Yi made the comments during the visit of his Philippine counterpart Teodoro Locsin, and said the two countries should be “good friends forever”. Without naming the US, Wang said China was not trying to overtake other countries, saying: “We don‘t have the willingness to compete with other countries for leadership but are focusing our efforts on dealing with our own business.” “China is seeking a development path that is completely different from the one with traditional powers of the West,” Wang told Locsin, according to a foreign ministry statement. “Our rights of development should not be deprived nor disrupted by other forces.” China starts diplomatic drive to win over Southeast Asian countries Wang also used Saturday’s meeting in Tenchong, in the southwestern province of Yunnan, to say the two sides should continue to work to resolve their long-running territorial dispute in the South China Sea – a potential flashpoint in the rivalry between China and the US. “Over the past four years the two sides have gained useful experience in correctly managing South China Sea issues,” Wang told Locsin. “The two sides should insist on seeking dialogue to properly manage their differences and continue to set aside disputes so that the rapport in bilateral ties will not be affected.” The foreign minister also said Beijing was keen to see the Association of Southeast Asian Nations playing a leading role in regional affairs, and offered to work with the Philippines on talks about agreeing a code of conduct in the South China Sea. Wang also said that China was willing to work closely with the Philippines on infrastructure programmes. China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea are disputed by a number of Asean members, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. The meeting between the two foreign ministers comes amid a new diplomatic push by Beijing in Southeast Asia, a region it has come to see as increasingly important during its ongoing tensions with the US. On Friday, Wang met Indonesian special envoy Luhut Binsar Panjaitan in Tengchong, where the two sides pledged to bolster ties and cooperate in fight against Covid-19. He will also visit Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos and Thailand this week with a transit stop in Singapore. In a US-China war, whose side is Southeast Asia on? In response, Locsin said the Philippines was looking forward to working with China on Covid-19 vaccine programmes and would support joint oil and gas exploration projects under a memorandum of understanding signed during President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Philippines in 2018, according to the Chinese foreign ministry. In a statement released on Saturday night, the Philippine foreign ministry said the two top diplomats had “a candid and in-depth exchange on regional security concerns” and that the two sides “reaffirmed the continuing vitality” of bilateral ties. The Philippines, under its Beijing-friendly leader Rodrigo Duterte, is now walking a tightrope between China, a major trade and investment partner, and its traditional ally the United States. Both Beijing and Washington have stepped up efforts to court the Philippines with pledges of millions of dollars in aid to the country that is still battling to contain Covid-19. Duterte has publicly pledged to prioritise buying Covid-19 vaccines from China and Russia. But last month he dismayed Beijing when he invoked a 2016 decision by the Court of Arbitration in The Hague that rejected most of China’s claims in the South China Sea – a ruling he has previously downplayed. Last month, Locsin also said that Manila would not follow Beijing’s policy of keeping Western powers, including the US, out of the disputed waters.