A Chinese official is praising the International Court of Justice — the primary judicial branch of the United Nations — and calling the Chinese government "an active advocator for peaceful settlement of disputes."

But Xu Hong is stressing that all parties must agree on the means to settle differences.

The comments by Xu, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Treaty and Law, were made as China is embroiled in disputes with several of its neighbors over its claims of sovereignty to almost all of the South China Sea.

Last week, over Chinese objections, another international court the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled it had jurisdiction in a case brought by the Philippines on maritime claims.