Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe quoted former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in remarks aimed at stressing the importance of the rule of law at sea amid a tense maritime dispute with China over territories in the East China Sea.

Speaking in parliament, Abe quoted Thatcher’s reflections on the 1982 Falklands War, with Argentina, in which she said Britain was defending the fundamental principle that international law should prevail over the use of force, Reuters reports.

Abe continued in his own words: “The rule of law at sea. I want to appeal to international society that in modern times changes to the status quo by the use of force will justify nothing.”

“Our national interests have been immutable. They lie in making the seas, which are the foundation of our nation’s existence, completely open, free and peaceful,” Abe said in his policy speech.

Tensions between Japan and China mounted after Tokyo accused the Chinese navy of locking weapons-targeting radar on Japanese coastguard in disputed waters, raising fears that the territorial row could spill over into a military conflict.

The hawkish premier reiterated that the Senkaku Islands, or Diaoyu in Chinese, are Japanese territory. He urged Beijing not to escalate tensions and said he was always open to dialogue.