The Philippine president says his Southeast Asian nation won't start a war with China over a disputed shoal where their ships have figured in a tense naval standoff for a week.

President Benigno Aquino III said Monday his country would assert its sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal off the northwestern Philippines but has pulled out a warship and replaced it with a coast guard vessel to "de-escalate the situation."

Aquino says the Philippines will continue talks with China to resolve the impasse, which began last Tuesday when two Chinese ships prevented a Philippine warship from arresting several Chinese fishermen.

Aquino, quoting the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, said: "It's better to jaw, jaw, jaw than to war, war, war."