China said Saturday that it will ignore the decision of an international arbitration panel in the Philippines’ lawsuit against Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
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“To put it simply, the arbitration case actually has gone beyond the jurisdiction” of a U.N. arbitration panel, said Rear Adm. Guan Youfei, director of the foreign affairs office of China’s National Defense Ministry.
The Philippines has filed a case in the United Nations under the U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea, questioning China’s territorial claim in the South China Sea. An arbitration panel is expected to rule on the case soon. The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled last year that it has jurisdiction over the case despite China’s rejection.
“Because the territorial and sovereignty disputes have not been subjected to the arbitration, we think the arbitration is illegal,” Guan told reporters on the sidelines of an international security conference here. “Therefore, we do not participate in it nor accept it.”
Guan’s statement is a reiteration of China’s longstanding position that it wants to settle its disputes with various countries on a bilateral basis and that it will not accept international mediation.
Still, it gains significance because of the overtures made by Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, who said recently that he is open to bilateral negotiations with China. This has given Beijing an opening that it hopes to leverage in the event the panel rules in favor of the Philippines.
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“The new Philippine leader also said that the Philippines hopes to conduct a dialogue with China,” Guan said. “We hope the Philippines could get back on to the track of dialogue. The door to dialogue is always open.”
The three-day Shangri-La Dialogue, which is being attended by defense ministers and experts from 25 countries, ends Sunday and covers topics that also include terrorism, cybercrime and DPRK’s nuclear ambitions.
Story from the Associated Press.