Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has accused the United States of "stirring up confrontation" in the Asia Pacific, declaring as a "security risk" Washington's plan to form an Indo-Pacific alliance, seen as a strategy to counter Beijing's own growing assertiveness in the region.
Wang issued the statement on Tuesday, following his meeting with his Malaysian counterpart, Hishammuddin Hussein, during which he also highlighted China's leadership in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and urged the Associated of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to work together to prevent "external disruptions".
Wang's trip to Kuala Lumpur is part of a tour of Southeast Asia and comes just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Tokyo and held a four-way summit with foreign ministers from Japan, India and Australia.
Wang likened the emerging US-led alliance to NATO in Europe and said what the US is doing could "mark the beginning of a dangerous and slippery" step.
"What it pursues is to trumpet the old-fashioned Cold War mentality, and to stir up confrontation among different groups and blocs, and to start a geopolitical competition," he said.
"In this sense, the strategy itself is a security risk if it is forced forward it will wind back the clock of history."
'Independent foreign policy'
Wang said the US is bent on maintaining its dominance in the region, contrary to the "spirit of mutual benefit and win-win" policies being pursued by Asia-Pacific nations.
"In our view, the future of the region should be determined by the people in the region. For East Asian countries, we have the right to achieve our own stability. We also have the right to pursue independent foreign policy."
For his part, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein called on China and the US to "resolve to strengthen their mutual trusts" and engage in talks "to manage the differences".
Hishammuddin also thanked Wang for making Malaysia a "priority recipient" of China's coronavirus vaccine, which is under development and could be available "as early as November".
While China has emerged stronger in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been criticised for its growing aggressiveness in its foreign policy in recent months - from the deadly confrontation with India in the disputed Ladakh region to its continuing expansion of artificial islands in the South China Sea and its hostilities toward Taiwan.
China has also taken punitive actions against countries, including Australia, that expressed opposition to Beijing's policy toward the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and the minority Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
The US sees the emerging Quad grouping with Japan, India and Australia as a platform to strengthen its position with regional allies toward China.
The US has also sought to boost the military defences of Taiwan, which China considers as a renegade province.
Most Asian allies have welcomed those recent actions by Washington toward Beijing, including the deployment of several warships in the South China Sea.
But at the same time, leaders from the Asia-Pacific region have also expressed reservations toward US President Donald Trump and his policies, as he raises tensions further through his confrontational style and rhetoric.