Beijing: In a setback for China, an international arbitration court ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear some territorial claims the Philippines has filed against it over disputed areas in the South China Sea, a ruling rejected by China as null and void.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, rejected China's argument that the dispute was about sovereignty - and so beyond its remit.
In its ruling, the court said, "It had taken to safeguard the procedural rights of China, including by ensuring that all communications and documents were delivered to China and that China was accorded adequate notice and opportunity to comment and by reiterating that it remains open to China to participate in the proceedings at any stage".
"The Tribunal also recalled the steps it had taken to ensure that the Philippines was not disadvantaged by China's non-participation.
"Finally, the Tribunal considered the argument set out in China's Position Paper that the Philippines' unilateral resort to arbitration constituted an abuse of the dispute settlement provisions of the Convention," it said.
Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told a media briefing that the result of the ruling will by no means affect China's sovereignty and rights on the South China Sea.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said that a ruling by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the jurisdiction and admissibility of the South China Sea dispute is null and void and has no binding effect on China.
The tribunal, established at the request of the Philippines, ruled that it can take on the case over the South China Sea dispute.
Observers said the Tribunal's decision means that the Permanent Court of Arbitration rules in the Philippines' favour on the question of jurisdiction.
With the jurisdictional issue resolved, the case can move forward to evaluating the merits of the Philippines' legal assertions in the South China Sea.
The Philippines along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan contests China's claims over all most all of South China Sea.
While rejecting the tribunal's decision, Lu said China's sovereignty and rights in the South China Sea are grounded in history and protected under international laws including the UNCLOS.
He reiterated China's position of "non-acceptance and non-participation" in the proceedings.
The Ministry statement said that the Philippines' decision to seek arbitration was "a political provocation under the cloak of law." ? ?
The ruling came in the midst of rising tensions between China and US over the American naval ships forays into the artificial islands built by China.
China's naval chief said he is "deeply concerned"?about US ships forays into the disputed South China Sea as he held video talks with top American naval commander two days after a US destroyer patrolled the artificial islands built by Beijing to assert freedom of navigation.
"Such dangerous and provocative acts have threatened China's sovereignty and security and harmed regional peace and stability," Admiral Wu Shengli of the People's Liberation Army's Navy said during talks with his US-counterpart Admiral John Richardson.
Wu warned that China will "have to take all necessary measures to safeguard sovereignty and security" if the US persists going its own way and ignoring China's concern.
Earlier on Tuesday, the US destroyer USS Lassen entered waters near Zhubi Reef without the permission of the Chinese government, despite repeated opposition and representation from China, said Wu, a member of the Central Military Commission.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel who is currently on her eighth visit to China has expressed concern about a territorial dispute between the Chinese and US navies in the South China Sea, and advised China to resolve row it through the international court.
Endorsing the US position she said it was essential that sea trade routes remained open despite the friction.
"The territorial dispute in the South China Sea is a serious conflict. I am always a bit surprised why in this case multinational courts should not be an option for a solution," Merkel said, in Beijing.
"We wish that the sea trade routes stay free and safe, because they are important for all," she said.