Dialogue and communication are key to ensuring stability on the high seas, defence officials from China and the Philippines said yesterday at a security conference in Beijing.
Their comments come at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and China.
In recent weeks, the US, which is also embroiled in a trade war with China, has sparked anger in Beijing by flying B-52 bombers in the vicinity of the South China Sea, and sailing a navy destroyer on a "freedom of navigation" mission through those waters.
Yesterday, Vice-Admiral Liu Yi, deputy commander of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, said at a plenary session on maritime security cooperation at the Xiangshan Forum that it was important to have mutual respect, especially in times of emergency.
"It is more important to respect each other and conduct more active consultations for only in this way can (international treaties) be followed in good faith, and only by mutual respect can we have good interaction in times of emergency," he said, explaining China's position on maritime security.
He was referring to treaties like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Vice-Adm Liu's comments came a day after Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe told the forum that the islands in the South China Sea were "the legacy of our ancestors and we can't afford to lose a single inch of them".
It is more important to respect each other and conduct more active consultations for only in this way can (international treaties) be followed in good faith, and only by mutual respect can we have good interaction in times of emergency.
VICE-ADMIRAL LIU YI, DEPUTY COMMANDER OF THE PEOPLE'S LIBERATION ARMY NAVY, explaining China's position on maritime security.
Last month, the US Navy destroyer Decatur sailed near islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea, causing a Chinese warship to try and force it away. The two ships nearly collided.
China claims sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea, but this is disputed by several Asean countries - the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei - as well as Taiwan.
More than 500 representatives from 67 countries and seven organisations attended the annual security forum, which ended yesterday.
Before it came to a close, Mr Cesar Yano, the Philippines' Undersecretary for Defence Operations, reaffirmed his country's view on the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight.
But he also said there was a need for "self-restraint" and to avoid acts that may complicate the situation.
Mr Yano was asked by a research fellow from the PLA's Academy of Military Science for the Philippines' view on "intervention by external regional powers" in the South China Sea, a move which has increased tensions.
Mr Yano said there was a need for continued dialogue, and agreed with Vice-Adm Liu that the security of one country should not come at the expense of others.
"There is really a need for the countries in the region and other major powers to continue talking and discussing. This is the view of the Philippines," he said.