"We do not believe in hegemony, confrontation. We believe in stability, we believe in innovation", launched the French president, invited to the annual meeting of Economic Cooperation for Asia-Pacific ( Apec) which opened in the Thai capital on Friday.
Spinning the metaphor, he felt that Asia-Pacific, the scene of a growing rivalry between China and the United States, should rely on its regional powers, including France, to guarantee this balance.
The opposition between Beijing and Washington, particularly over Taiwan, has embarrassed several countries in the region that do not want to choose between the two superpowers.
The French president offered them a third way.
"We are in the jungle and we have two big elephants that are getting very nervous. If they get very nervous, they will start fighting each other and that will be a big problem for the rest of the jungle," Ms. Macron.
"We will need the cooperation of many other animals, tigers, monkeys, etc.," he said, sparking laughter from the audience.
Emmanuel Macron has made what Western diplomats call the "Indo-Pacific" region a strategic priority, a vast area ranging from the East African coasts to the West American coasts where France has many territories and maritime areas.
France holds most of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) there, the second in the world, around seven territories, from Reunion to New Caledonia and Tahiti, where 1.65 million French citizens live.
- Ukraine, "also your problem" -
The relaunch of the French strategy in Asia-Pacific comes just over a year after the snub represented for Paris by the conclusion of the AUKUS alliance between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. The birth of this new alliance had led Canberra to cancel a mega-contract for the acquisition of twelve French conventional submarines, which would have been built in Australia.
Australia decided to buy US or British nuclear-powered submarines instead, a major change for a country with weak atomic capabilities.
On Thursday, the French president said the offer of cooperation with Australia on submarines remained "on the table". But while saying Canberra maintains a "very good cooperative relationship with Paris", Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed on Friday that he was "pursuing agreements with AUKUS".
France's room for maneuver also remains constrained militarily. Only 7,000 soldiers are permanently deployed in the area, as well as a few patrol boats and reconnaissance aircraft.
Mr Macron also called on the countries of the region on Friday to support the "growing consensus" against the conflict in Ukraine. "This war is also your problem," he said in his speech.
Several countries of the South, China in the lead, refuse to condemn the Russian invasion, although they deplore its harmful economic consequences which affect both the price of energy and that of food products.
Chinese President Xi Jinping recalled Thursday that the Asia-Pacific "is no one's garden".
In Bangkok where he continues his diplomatic marathon started at the G20, he occupies center stage, in the absence of his American counterpart Joe Biden, retained in Washington for the wedding of his granddaughter, and represented by Kamala Harris.
The Apec summit, which ends on Saturday, closes a diplomatic sequence of ten intense days in Southeast Asia, after a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh and the G20 on the Indonesian island of Bali.