China is committed to resolving maritime disputes with other countries peacefully and does not seek maritime hegemony, Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday.
In the first speech by a Chinese leader outlining the country's views on maritime affairs during an overseas visit, Li stressed that Beijing expects to contribute to navigational freedom.
Analysts said such freedom is needed to guarantee China's maritime interests and to fulfil its aim of becoming a strong maritime country.
"We will resolutely adhere to the path of peaceful development and oppose maritime hegemony," Li said at a forum on marine cooperation between China and Greece. He arrived in Athens from Britain on Thursday for a three-day visit.
"We will commit ourselves to solving maritime disputes with parties directly involved through direct talks and negotiation based on respect of historical facts and international law," he said.
Li also cited Greece as an example of how a maritime nation can benefit from close maritime cooperation with a distant country.
"Greece lent a hand with three rounds of massive evacuations of Chinese citizens abroad. Scenes of more than 13,000 Chinese being evacuated smoothly from Libya are still deeply etched on the hearts of Chinese people," Li said.
He was referring to Greek efforts to assist China in pulling its citizens out of the North African country amid unrest in 2011.
Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said Li's remarks closely follow President Xi Jinping's speech at a regional summit in May, in which he introduced China's security views.
Cui said Li's speech comes as some countries try to determine the aim of Beijing's policy to build a strong maritime nation. It also comes amid tensions with some of China's neighbours over sea disputes.