As the two most formidable Pacific powers, one might argue that confrontation between the United States and China is inevitable, though throughout rising tensions, senior officials on both sides of the divide have continuously argued that degrading relations isn’t assured, and through diplomatic efforts, the growing military presence employed by each nation in the Pacific will never have to square off against one another. However, maintaining that balance is a challenge amid escalating concerns about Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime, who counts China among his allies, and of course, China’s rapid and aggressive expansion throughout one of the world’s most heavily trafficked waterways, the South China Sea.

On Thursday, Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, addressed an international crowd that included U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs Matt Pottinger as a part of a Lunar New Year celebration. During the event, he delivered some telling remarks directly to the United States, which though delivered in a friendly tone, seem to convey an increasingly aggressive posture.

When discussing the U.S., Cui began with a friendly overture, suggesting that the relationship between the two nations “should be characterized by overall cooperation. “Friendly competition, if competition is necessary, and no confrontation.”

We will continue to have differences between us, but our growing common interests are far more important. We may continue to have disagreements between us, but the need for cooperation will far outweigh any differences between us. We’ll continue to have problems, but dialogues will lead us to solutions.” He added.