PH wants China to join tribunal to end sea spat

by Manuel Mogato, Reuters

Posted at Apr 17 2012 08:45 PM | Updated as of Apr 18 2012 05:39 PM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - The Philippines will ask China to agree to take a dispute over an uninhabited South China Sea shoal to an international court as the two sides traded new accusations of intrusions.

The most recent dispute between China and the Philippines has entered its second week, with a Philippine coast guard ship and two Chinese maritime surveillance vessels faced off near the Scarborough Shoal.

"In pursuing a peaceful settlement of the Scarborough shoal issue, we fully intend to humbly invite our Chinese friends to join us in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea," Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement.

"The purpose of the exercise will be to ascertain which of us has sovereign rights over the waters surrounding Scarborough Shoal, where Chinese ships are currently engaging in illegal activities within the Philippine exclusive economic zone."

Beijing has yet to comment on Manila's invitation but is unlikely to agree.

China has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan in the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas and is crossed by important shipping lanes.

China has sought to resolve the disputes one-on-one but there is concern among its neighbours over what some see as its growing assertiveness in staking its claims over the sea and various islands, reefs and shoals.