Three days into high-profile visits to the capitals of India and Vietnam, President Joe Biden said that his presence and moves to strengthen ties with China’s neighbors weren’t designed to “contain” Beijing.

And he repeated that phrase — again and again.

“I don’t want to contain China,” he said during a news conference in Hanoi shortly after elevating the U.S.-Vietnam relationship and palling around with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We’re not trying to hurt China.” Under his watch, Biden said America’s goal is “getting the relationship right” between the world’s two foremost powers.

Biden’s team has said previously it doesn’t aim to curb China’s rise, even when it imposes strict export controls on technologies crucial for its military development and takes steps to move closer to other countries in Asia. But the remarks, and the setting of the message, is the strongest signal the administration has sent to Beijing that it doesn’t want to foment a new Cold War.

Biden arrived in India on Friday for a summit of the G20 before traveling Sunday morning to Vietnam for an official upgrade in the bilateral relationship. While U.S. officials openly stressed the Asia sojourn was about rallying allies to work together on climate change and development on a shifting global economy, they privately hinted that better ties with New Delhi and Hanoi would boost America’s regional position.

But Biden denied that his presence halfway around the world from Washington was intended to boost America’s regional standing at China’s expense. “It’s not about containing China,” he said again. “It’s about having a stable base, a stable base in the Indo-Pacific.”

“We think too much in Cold War terms,” Biden told members of the press who peppered him with questions about the state of U.S.-China ties. “I am sincere about getting the relationship right.”

The way the U.S. can do that, the president insisted, is by ensuring China plays by “the rules of the game” — that is, the tenets of the rules-based international order the United States helped create from the embers of World War II.

“I just want to make sure we have a relationship with China that is on the up and up, squared away. Everybody knows what it’s all about,” Biden said.

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