China denounces PH 'pressure' over sea dispute

By Adam Rose and Ben Blanchard, Reuters

Posted at Dec 07 2014 12:21 PM | Updated as of Dec 07 2014 10:57 PM

BEIJING -- (UPDATED) China denounced the Philippines on Sunday for putting it under pressure with an international arbitration case over disputed waters, and refused again to participate a week ahead of a deadline to respond in the case.

In a position paper, China outlined its arguments against the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague to take up the case filed by the Philippines last year that could have implications for China's claims over the South China Sea.

"Its underlying goal is not ... to seek peaceful resolution of the South China Sea issue, but rather, by resorting to arbitration, to put political pressure on China, so as to deny China's lawful rights in the South China Sea through the so-called 'interpretation or application' of the Convention," China's foreign ministry said.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. It has a dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.

China has long rejected arbitration, insisting it would resolve disputes bilaterally. The tribunal has given China until Dec. 15 to reply in the case.

Xu Hong, head of the ministry's legal and treaties department, said the timing of the paper had nothing to do with the deadline, and it had taken time to prepare China's arguments for why it was not participating in arbitration.

"Some people, who do not know the truth, have questioned China's position of not accepting or participating in the arbitration," he told a news conference.

"Some others, who harbor ulterior motives, have made one-sided and misleading readings of the rules of international law, and, on that basis, made accusations or insinuations that China does not abide by law and perversely brand China a 'challenger' to international rules."

He accused the Philippines of lying when it said it had discussed arbitration with China, and of failing to respond to Chinese proposals for talks.

"The Philippines is keenly aware of the importance of addressing the issue through peaceful negotiations. But it still unilaterally initiated a compulsory dispute settlement procedure. Of course China cannot accept this."

China's participation is not required as the tribunal is not meant to resolve the dispute but address the validity of China's "nine-dash line" as well as the classification of various features under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea to which China is a signatory.

China's claim is represented on its maps by a nine-dash line that loops out from its coast.

A ruling in the Philippines' favor could undermine parts of China's claim to the sea, which critics say has an obscure basis under the Convention.