Vatican calls for peaceful resolution of conflicts, including South China Sea disputes

MANILA (Reuters) -The Vatican called on Tuesday for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, including tensions between the Philippines and China as the two nations work to manage their dispute in the South China Sea.

In the first visit to Manila by a Vatican foreign minister in 75 years of relations between the Holy See and the Catholic-majority country, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher said every effort must be made to resolve any differences peacefully.

"We encourage parties in conflict to abide by international law," Gallagher told reporters during a joint briefing with the Philippines' foreign minister.

Gallagher's visit comes as talks are underway between Manila and Beijing to manage their tensions in the South China Sea, which Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo said he hoped would result in confidence-building measures to manage tensions.

Manila is hosting the latest round of talks between the two countries under their bilateral consultation mechanism, a format to specifically address South China Sea disputes.

China and the Philippines have recently accused each other of raising tensions in disputed shoals and reefs in the South China Sea, including an incident last month that seriously injured a Filipino navy sailor.

Philippine Rear Admiral Roy Vincent Trinidad, navy spokesperson on South China Sea matters, told a briefing that the Chinese Coast Guard's actions against Philippine vessels carrying out a routine resupply mission in Second Thomas Shoal were the "most aggressive" in recent history.

Trinidad described the Chinese Coast Guard manoeuvres as "deliberate, planned and escalatory".

A Philippine sailor suffered serious injury after what its military described as "intentional-high speed ramming" by the Chinese Coast Guard on June 17 during a resupply mission for troops stationed on the Second Thomas Shoal.

China has disputed the Philippines' account, saying the actions by its coast guard were lawful and beyond reproach. There was no immediate comment from the Chinese Embassy in Manila on Trinidad's remarks.

"It was the most aggressive action ever conducted by agents of aggression of Chinese communist part in South China Sea," Trinidad told reporters, referring to the June 17 incident.

The Philippines has sent missions to resupply soldiers living aboard a rusty, aging warship deliberately grounded by Manila in 1999 at the atoll to reinforce its sovereignty claims.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including portions claimed by Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said China's claims had no legal basis.

Manila has sought for wider international support on its maritime claims, seeking closer ties with countries to advocate for a rules-based order that recognises international law.

(Reporting by Mikhail Flores and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Devjyot Ghoshal and Michael Perry)