By Ben Blanchard and Anthony Deutsch
BEIJING/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – China said on Wednesday an arbitration court hearing the dispute between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea had no jurisdiction in the case and that Beijing would not accept any forced dispute resolution.
The court, in the Dutch city of The Hague, said it would deliver its decision on July 12.
The Philippines has asked the Netherlands-based court to rule in a case that pits China against several South Asian countries with overlapping claims. The dispute has escalated tension in the region and sparked concerns of a military confrontation.
China has not taken part in the proceedings and rejects the court’s jurisdiction in the matter.
In a lengthy statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Manila’s approach flouted international law.
“I again stress that the arbitration court has no jurisdiction in the case and on the relevant matter, and should not hold hearings or make a ruling,” he said.
“The Philippines’ unilateral lodging of the South China Sea arbitration case is contrary to international law.”
He added: “On the issue of territory and disputes over maritime delineation, China does not accept any dispute resolution from a third party and does not accept any dispute resolution forced on China.”
In Manila, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a text message the Philippines “expects a just and fair ruling that will promote peace and stability in the region”.
China’s official Xinhua news agency said the arbitration court was a “law-abusing tribunal” that had “widely contested jurisdiction.”
In a separate English-language commentary, Xinhua said the case would only cause more problems and worsen the dispute.
“Manila fails to see that such an arbitration will only stir up more trouble in the South China Sea, which doesn’t serve the interests of the concerned parties in the least,” it said.
The case “even threatens to further complicate the issue by giving certain parties in the disputes the false impression they could profit by deliberately creating chaos”, Xinhua added.
The South China Sea, spanning almost 3.5 million square km, with abundant natural resources and a key shipping lane for international trade, borders on China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia.
Manila is contesting China’s historical claim to about 90 percent of the maritime territory, with its so-called “Nine Dash line” stretching deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia, covering hundreds of disputed islands and reefs, rich fishing grounds and oil and gas deposits.
The Philippines argues that China’s claim violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and has restricted its rights to exploit resources and fishing areas within its exclusive economic zone.
(Additional reporting by Manny Mogato in Manila; Editing by Mark Heinrich)