UNITED NATIONS - UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called for an "amicable" settlement to a mounting South China Sea territorial dispute between China and other Asian nations.
Asked about the Philippines decision to refer the case to a UN tribunal, Ban told reporters he has been following the dispute "carefully".
"It is important for those countries in the region to resolve all these issues through dialogue in a peaceful and amicable way," he said.
The United Nations is ready "to provide technical and professional assistance, but primarily all these issues should be resolved by the parties concerned," the UN leader added, carefully avoiding backing any country involved.
China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan all have overlapping claims to the territory.
The Philippines government announced Tuesday that it would ask an arbitration panel under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea -- a 1982 treaty signed by both countries -- to rule on China's claims.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said, "The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China."
Over the past two years the Philippines and Vietnam have complained at China's increasing assertiveness in enforcing its claims, particularly in areas believed rich in oil and natural gas reserves.
China has said the rival claims should be settled through negotiations.
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