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Philippines' request for UN tribunal on South China Sea issue rejected

By Zhou Wa and Zhang Yunbi | China Daily | Updated: 2013-02-20 07:16

China has turned down a request by the Philippines to take a South China Sea territorial dispute to a United Nations arbitral tribunal.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Tuesday that Beijing has urged Manila not to complicate the issue.

Observers said Beijing's rejection did not mean it has changed its attitude toward resolving the issue through dialogue. Manila's request is a political gesture, as taking the issue to an international arbitral tribunal will not help settle the dispute, they said.

"Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing had an appointment with officials from the Philippine Foreign Ministry on Tuesday and returned a note and related notice after expressing China's rejection," Hong said.

Hong added that Manila's action violates the consensus in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, adding that there are factual and legal mistakes and baseless accusations against China in the note and related notice.

China signed the declaration in 2002 with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including the Philippines. The declaration states that disputes should be solved through friendly talks and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Manila took the South China Sea dispute to an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on Jan 22.

Hong said China is committed to addressing the dispute through bilateral talks, noting that the consensus in the declaration states that disputes should be solved through talks between the nations directly involved.

"China hopes the Philippines will honor its commitment by not taking any action that could complicate the issue, positively respond to China's proposal to establish a bilateral dialogue mechanism on maritime issues and work to solve the issue through bilateral negotiations," Hong said.

Wu Hui, a professor on the International Law of the Sea at the University of International Relations, said although Manila does not mention Huangyan Island in its statement on Jan 22, the island, which belongs to China, is its target. Wu added that international arbitration is not legally appropriate to resolve the dispute.

"According to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, countries with maritime disputes should resolve the issue through negotiation before delivering a case for international arbitration," Wu said.

She added that the maritime dispute between Beijing and Manila is still in negotiation.

Gao Jianjun, a professor at the School of International Law at the China University of Political Science and Law, said, "Beijing has shown consistency in its pursuit of a peaceful resolution of international disputes."

He said "political considerations" are behind Manila's latest proposal.

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(China Daily 02/20/2013 page11)

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