China ruled out Tuesday getting involved in events in neighboring Myanmar, where the military junta has threatened to take action against a growing wave of pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks.
The Myanmar protests have placed China in a difficult situation because Beijing is a key political backer of the regime and has extensive economic links with the military government.
However, in what was apparently China's first official comment on the protests, Zhang Zhijun, a vice minister of the party's International Department, said Beijing has had minimal contact with either side and would abide by its long-term policy of noninterference in the domestic affairs of its allies.
"In our external exchanges, the party strictly abides by four principles ... there is one that is no interference in each other's internal affairs," Zhang told reporters at a news conference in Beijing.
China is believed to be strongly opposed to unrest in its southern neighbor, and some diplomats and academics have speculated that Beijing may be pressuring the regime to show restraint in the face of the biggest anti-government marches in nearly two decades.
Later Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu repeated China's stance of noninterference.
"We hope Myanmar and its people will take proper actions to resolve the issue," she told a news conference.
Admitting that protests have spread across the country, Myanmar's rulers on Tuesday ordered Buddhist monks who have spearheaded the demonstrations to stay out of politics.
Much of the West applies diplomatic and political sanctions against Myanmar's junta for its refusal to restore democracy, but Chinese aid - along with oil and gas revenues it receives - effectively undercuts any leverage they might have had.
Beijing earlier this year blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution criticizing Myanmar's rights record, saying it was not the right forum.
Zhang said that regardless of the extent of the government's ties with overseas groups, it would not use such relations to interfere the domestic affairs of foreign nations.