VIENTIANE Thailand said on Wednesday said it "supports China's efforts" to maintain maritime peace amid a regional dispute over the South China Sea.
The comment from Thailand, which has historically maintained a neutral stance on the South China Sea, came hours after the Philippines released pictures showing what it said were Chinese boats near a disputed shoal in the sea.
"Promoting peace and stability in the ocean is important to all parties and Thailand supports China's efforts in this regard. Discussions must reduce mistrust," Major General Weerachon Sukondhapatipak, a Thai government spokesman, told Reuters on the sidelines of an Asian summit.
Asked whether Thailand was siding with China, he said Thailand "wants to see peace maintained in the interests of all parties", without giving further details.
China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts or all of the resource-rich South China Sea.
An international arbitration panel, in a case brought by the Philippines, ruled in July that China's building of numerous artificial islands was illegal and its claims to most of the South China Sea had no legal basis.
(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Nick Macfie)