MANILA China on Wednesday rejected an arbitration tribunal's ruling giving it six months to respond to a case filed by the Philippines over disputed waters, saying it has no plans to take part.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei in one of Asia's most intractable disputes and a possible flashpoint. It also has a separate maritime dispute with Japan over islands in the East Sea.
The tribunal in The Hague gave Beijing until Dec. 15 to reply to the first international case filed against China related to the energy-rich waters.
In giving China time to respond to the Philippines' filing, the tribunal was fulfilling its obligation to assure "each party a full opportunity to be heard and to present its case", it said in a statement on Tuesday.
China has said all along it will not participate in the arbitration proceedings, preferring a bilateral approach to resolve the conflicts.
"China's stance of not accepting and not participating in the relevant Philippines' arbitration case has not changed," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters on Wednesday.
Manila is seeking confirmation of its right to exploit waters in a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone as allowed under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, its lawyers have said.
"We continue to urge China to reconsider its decision not to participate in the arbitration proceedings," said Charles Jose, spokesman for the Philippine Foreign Affairs department. "We also wish to reiterate that arbitration is a peaceful, open and friendly resolution mechanism that offers a durable solution to the disputes in the South China Sea."
The United States has said it supports the Philippines' arbitration case, closely watched by other claimant states including Vietnam which said last month it was considering legal action against China after Beijing moved an oil rig into waters claimed by Hanoi.
That move triggered protests in Vietnam, with angry mobs attacking Taiwanese factories which they mistook to be owned by mainland Chinese. It also led to confrontations in the waters that included the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat which Hanoi blamed on China.
(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Nick Macfie)