MANILA (UPDATE) – The Philippines remains open to diplomatic discussions with China and believes the two nations can achieve a resolution to disputes over the South China Sea through peaceful dialogue, its national security adviser said in a statement on Friday.

Eduardo Ano’s remarks came after a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on Thursday called recent joint patrols by the United States and the Philippines in the South China Sea “provocative” and “irresponsible”.

“Our joint patrols with the United States and potential future activities with other allied countries shows our mutual commitment to a rules-based international order and for promoting peace and stability of the region,” Mr. Ano said.

The Chinese embassy in Manila repeated the foreign ministry spokesperson’s comments when asked to respond to Mr. Ano’s remarks.

Two Chinese navy vessels had shadowed Philippine and U.S. ships conducting the recently concluded joint patrols, the Philippine military said on Thursday.

The two-day maritime exercises involved four vessels from the Philippine navy and four ships from the U.S. Indo-Pacific fleet, including Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. The patrols ended on Thursday and the U.S. vessels called at the port of Manila on Friday.

The joint patrols were the second held by the Philippines and the U.S. in less than two months in the South China Sea, where tensions over disputed territorial claims are flaring.

“The Philippines remains open to diplomatic discussions with China and reaffirms its commitment to fostering good relations with all nations,” Mr. Ano said.

“We believe that through peaceful dialogue and adherence to international law, we can achieve a resolution that serves the best interest of all parties involved in the region,” he said.

China lays claim to almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce. China’s claims of sovereignty overlap territorial waters claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s claims had no legal basis. China has rejected that ruling. — Reuters