China stands firm in territory row

Published: Sunday 7th December 2014 by The News Editor

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China has again rejected an attempt by the Philippines to challenge its territorial claims over the South China Sea through international arbitration, a week before a deadline for Beijing to respond to the case.

China prefers to settle its disputes in discussions with the countries directly involved. However, after China took control of Scarborough Shoal following a tense naval stand-off with the Philippines near its coastline, Manila filed a case with a tribunal operating under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, which provides a regulatory framework for the use of the world’s seas and oceans.

Xu Hong, director general of the Chinese foreign ministry’s department of treaty and law, said the Philippines was “obstinately pushing forward arbitration procedures” and urged it to negotiate with Beijing instead.

He told reporters that China was committed to rejecting and not participating in the arbitration proceedings.

However the arbitration works, “it won’t change the history or the facts of China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea islands as well as the adjacent waters,” Mr Xu said.

The document elaborates on China’s previous arguments that territorial sovereignty is beyond the scope of the tribunal.

It said China’s rejection of arbitration is in line with international law and that China and the Philippines have previously agreed to settle territorial disputes through negotiations.

The Filipino government will study China’s paper and may issue a response later, Charles Jose, the department of foreign affairs spokesman, said in Manila.

The department has previously said it would proceed with the arbitration case against China because that legal avenue would lead to a “more durable” and rules-based solution to the long-simmering territorial disputes.

After China seized the disputed shoal, the Philippines started the tribunal process in January 2013, questioning the validity under international law of China’s “nine-dash line” claim, a rough demarcation of China’s territory on its official maps that virtually envelopes most of the South China Sea.

The tribunal has invited China to respond by December 15. Mr Xu said the publication of the paper was not linked to the deadline but had taken time to draw up.

China’s claims in the South China Sea encompass waters and islands that the Philippines and four other Asian nations also say are theirs.

Published: Sunday 7th December 2014 by The News Editor

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