UPDATE 2-China summons Manila envoy over South China Sea legal case

Tue Apr 1, 2014 1:32am IST

(Adds comment from U.S. State Department)

By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING, March 31 (Reuters) - China summoned the Philippines ambassador on Monday to lodge a strong complaint over Manila's seeking of international arbitration in a festering territorial dispute over the South China Sea.

The Philippines filed the case against China on Sunday at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague, subjecting Beijing to international legal scrutiny over the waters for the first time.

The United States, a treaty ally of the Philippines, said on Sunday that the right of any state to use dispute resolution mechanisms under the Convention on the Law of the Sea should be respected.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department accused China's coastguard of "harassment" of Philippine vessels and called its attempt on Saturday to block a Philippine resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed atoll, "a provocative and destabilising action."

Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told the Philippines' ambassador that Beijing was "extremely dissatisfied and resolutely opposed" to the case Manila had brought to The Hague, repeating that China did not accept it and would not participate.

"The Philippines forcing of international arbitration is not conducive towards resolving the Sino-Philippine dispute over the South China Sea," the Foreign Ministry cited Liu as saying.

The case would not shake China's resolve to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, Liu added.

The only way to address the issue was through bilateral talks, he said, repeating another of China's standard lines.

BLOCKING ATTEMPT

At the weekend, a Philippine vessel delivered food, water and troops to the Second Thomas Shoal, evading two Chinese coastguard ships trying to block its path.

Liu expressed anger at that too, especially as the Philippines took reporters along to what China calls Ren'ai Reef. "China will not tolerate the Philippines' occupation of Ren'ai Reef in any form," he said, calling on the Philippines to stop its "provocative behaviour".

Philippine President Benigno Aquino, speaking to reporters earlier on Monday, said he was not seeking confrontation.

"We are not here to challenge China, to provoke them into any action, but I do believe that they should recognise we have the right to defend our own interests," he said.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the Philippines was permitted, under the principles of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, to maintain previously established outposts without interference.

"As a treaty ally of the Republic of the Philippines, the United States urges China to refrain from further provocative behaviour by allowing the Philippines to continue to maintain its presence at Second Thomas Shoal," she told a regular news briefing in Washington.

"We urge China to manage disputes peacefully, to clarify its ambiguous claim in accordance with international law, and to accelerate negotiations with ASEAN on a meaningful code of conduct," she said, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The latest developments in the dispute come ahead of a visit next month by U.S. President Barack Obama to Asia, including the Philippines. Obama is expected to offer reassurances to regional allies in the face of increasingly assertive Chinese territorial claims.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the United States was not a party to the dispute and had said many times it would not take a position.

"We demand that the United States be as good as their word, and do more to benefit peace and stability in the South China Sea, not the opposite," Hong said.

"The Philippine side will certainly face consequences for its provocative actions," he added, without elaborating.

China displays its claims to the South China Sea on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Manny Mogato in MANILA and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Editing by Nick Macfie, Alison Williams and Paul Simao)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

RBI Policy Review

RBI Policy Review

RBI keeps rates on hold, warns on inflation  Full Article 

Monsoon Season

Monsoon Season

India's 2014 monsoon ends with double-digit rain deficit .  Full Article 

Cleanliness Drive

Cleanliness Drive

Modi orders officials to clean loos on Gandhi's birthday.  Full Article 

Bid to Boost Trading

Bid to Boost Trading

RBI takes small steps to deepen markets.  Full Article 

Car Recall

Car Recall

Maruti Suzuki says to recall 69,555 cars.  Full Article 

China Factory Data

China Factory Data

China final HSBC PMI steady in September on stronger global demand but risks remain  Full Article 

Oil Demand

Oil Demand

India's thirst for oil grows even as China cuts back  Video 

EBay Divests PayPal

EBay Divests PayPal

EBay to spinoff PayPal in 2015  Full Article 

New 'Windows'

New 'Windows'

Microsoft names next operating system 'Windows 10'.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage