BEIJING - Beijing strongly urged Manila on Friday to return to "diplomacy" to resolve the island impasse in the South China Sea, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The call came in response to remarks by the Philippine military and media on Thursday, claiming that China sent more ships to the waters of China's Huangyan Island, over which the Philippines laid rival claim recently.
Media reports quoted a regional military spokesman with Manila as saying that four Chinese surveillance ships and 10 fishing boats had anchored off the island. Reports called it the largest number of Chinese vessels seen in the waters since the impasse occurred on April 10.
The spokesman said the reported move was an insult that would further inflame tensions.
China's stance on resolving the situation by diplomatic reconciliation is "unchanged", Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a daily news conference in Beijing on Friday.
"We strongly urge the Philippines to get back on the correct track of resolution through diplomacy, and any remark or move that complicates or intensifies the situation makes no sense to the resolution," Liu warned.
Huangyan Island has been an integral part of China's territory for centuries.
The Philippine government made no challenge to China's sovereignty over the island before it started to officially lay rival claims in 1997.
Yet on April 10, a Philippine warship entered the island's territorial waters, dispatched personnel to harass Chinese fishing boats and became violent toward Chinese fishermen.
The move infringed on China's sovereignty. Two Chinese patrol ships in the area later came to the fishermen's rescue, and the warship left.
But the standoff continued as Philippine vessels were reportedly still in China's territorial waters on Friday.