World

China's leader vows to safeguard free navigation in South China Sea

  • A member of the audience is seen in silhouette as Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers his speech on "Forging A Strong Partnership To Enhance Prosperity Of Asia" at the 36th Singapore Lecture on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

    A member of the audience is seen in silhouette as Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers his speech on "Forging A Strong Partnership To Enhance Prosperity Of Asia" at the 36th Singapore Lecture on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)  (The Associated Press)

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers his speech on "Forging A Strong Partnership To Enhance Prosperity Of Asia" at the 36th Singapore Lecture on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

    Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers his speech on "Forging A Strong Partnership To Enhance Prosperity Of Asia" at the 36th Singapore Lecture on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)  (The Associated Press)

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, delivers his speech on "Forging A Strong Partnership To Enhance Prosperity Of Asia" at the 36th Singapore Lecture on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

    Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, delivers his speech on "Forging A Strong Partnership To Enhance Prosperity Of Asia" at the 36th Singapore Lecture on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)  (The Associated Press)

China's President Xi Jinping has promised to safeguard freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where tensions have flared over overlapping claims and the U.S. Navy's moves to challenge Beijing's massive island building.

Speaking at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, Xi said Saturday that there has never been any problem with freedom of navigation and overflight and "nor will there ever be in the future."

He says China needs unimpeded passage through the waters more than anyone else.

He says: "We have absolute confidence and capability in maintaining the peace and stability. This can be done through negotiations and the establishment of reasonable maritime rights."