China to snub arbitration hearing on feud with Philippines
China is standing pat on its decision to reject arbitration by an international tribunal that will begin formal hearings this week to resolve a long-seething feud with the Philippines over the South China Sea, Beijing's ambassador to Manila said on Monday.
Manila: China is standing pat on its decision to reject arbitration by an international tribunal that will begin formal hearings this week to resolve a long-seething feud with the Philippines over the South China Sea, Beijing's ambassador to Manila said on Monday.
The five-member tribunal starts hearings in The Hague on Tuesday to address China's contention that the arbitration body does not have authority to assume jurisdiction over Manila's complaint against Beijing.
A high-level delegation that includes the Philippines' solicitor-general and the heads of the foreign, defense and justice departments, along with Washington-based lawyers hired by Manila, have flown to The Hague to argue Manila's case.
The dayslong hearings are crucial because the Philippines' complaint against China could no longer be heard if the tribunal declares it has no jurisdiction over the case.
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua told reporters in Manila that his government would stick to its decision not to participate in the arbitration and instead renewed China's offer to resolve the conflict through one-on-one negotiations with the Philippines.
"Our position is consistent. We'll not accept nor participate in the arbitration," Zhao said. "Our door for bilateral consultation and negotiation is still open and will be open forever."
Responding to a question from a reporter, Zhao reiterated that China would never start a war with the Philippines over the long-contested territories. "I cannot imagine that China would wage a war against the Philippines over what is happening in the South China Sea. It is not China's policy and will not be China's policy," he said.
The Philippines brought its disagreements with China to international arbitration in January 2013, a year after Chinese coast guard ships took effective control of the disputed Scarborough Shoal following a tense standoff with Filipino ships. Manila's bold move has angered Beijing and strained relations.
Chinese coast guard ships have since been driving away Filipino and other fishermen from the shoal, at times using water cannons in actions that the Philippine government has condemned and protested, Filipino officials said.
In its complaint, the Philippines asked the tribunal to declare China's so-called "nine-dash line" territorial claim over much of the South China Sea invalid under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Philippine government has also asked the tribunal to declare the extent of territorial waters that can be accorded to at least eight islands, reefs and atolls under Chinese control in the disputed territory in a bid to limit Beijing's reach in scattered areas of it.
Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have territorial claims in the waters that are among the world's busiest sea lanes. Tensions flared in recent months after the Philippines and other claimants discovered that China had undertaken massive island-building in seven reefs and atolls in the Spratlys chain.