China will firmly safeguard the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said here Tuesday at the 12th East Asia Summit.

Li said China is the largest country in the South China Sea and a major country that uses the lanes in the sea, thus China shows more interest in safeguarding peace, stability, and navigation freedom in the South China Sea than any other country in the world.

He stressed that peace and stability in the South China Sea benefits all countries, and with the joint efforts of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the situation in the South China Sea tends to remain stable and show some positive signals.

The related countries in the South China Sea issue have returned to the right track of negotiations and consultations, and their relations had been constantly improved, he said.

"Leaders of the ASEAN countries and I jointly announced yesterday the start of consultations on the text of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea," Li said.

The Chinese premier said it fully represents the common will of regional countries that they should properly handle differences through dialogues and negotiations, and safeguard the peace and stability of the South China Sea.

It also shows the confidence, wisdom, and capacity of regional countries to properly settle the South China Sea issue in order to make it a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, he said.