(Adds comment from U.S. State Department)
By Ben Blanchard
BEIJING, March 31 China summoned the Philippines
ambassador on Monday to lodge a strong complaint over Manila's
seeking of international arbitration in a festering territorial
dispute over the South China Sea.
The Philippines filed the case against China on Sunday at an
arbitration tribunal in The Hague, subjecting Beijing to
international legal scrutiny over the waters for the first time.
The United States, a treaty ally of the Philippines, said on
Sunday that the right of any state to use dispute resolution
mechanisms under the Convention on the Law of the Sea should be
On Monday, the U.S. State Department accused China's
coastguard of "harassment" of Philippine vessels and called its
attempt on Saturday to block a Philippine resupply mission to
the Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed atoll, "a provocative and
Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told the
Philippines' ambassador that Beijing was "extremely dissatisfied
and resolutely opposed" to the case Manila had brought to The
Hague, repeating that China did not accept it and would not
"The Philippines forcing of international arbitration is not
conducive towards resolving the Sino-Philippine dispute over the
South China Sea," the Foreign Ministry cited Liu as saying.
The case would not shake China's resolve to protect its
sovereignty and territorial integrity, Liu added.
The only way to address the issue was through bilateral
talks, he said, repeating another of China's standard lines.
At the weekend, a Philippine vessel delivered food, water
and troops to the Second Thomas Shoal, evading two Chinese
coastguard ships trying to block its path.
Liu expressed anger at that too, especially as the
Philippines took reporters along to what China calls Ren'ai
Reef. "China will not tolerate the Philippines' occupation of
Ren'ai Reef in any form," he said, calling on the Philippines to
stop its "provocative behaviour".
Philippine President Benigno Aquino, speaking to reporters
earlier on Monday, said he was not seeking confrontation.
"We are not here to challenge China, to provoke them into
any action, but I do believe that they should recognise we have
the right to defend our own interests," he said.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the Philippines
was permitted, under the principles of the 2002 Declaration on
the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, to maintain
previously established outposts without interference.
"As a treaty ally of the Republic of the Philippines, the
United States urges China to refrain from further provocative
behaviour by allowing the Philippines to continue to maintain
its presence at Second Thomas Shoal," she told a regular news
briefing in Washington.
"We urge China to manage disputes peacefully, to clarify its
ambiguous claim in accordance with international law, and to
accelerate negotiations with ASEAN on a meaningful code of
conduct," she said, referring to the 10-member Association of
Southeast Asian Nations.
The latest developments in the dispute come ahead of a visit
next month by U.S. President Barack Obama to Asia, including the
Philippines. Obama is expected to offer reassurances to regional
allies in the face of increasingly assertive Chinese territorial
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the United
States was not a party to the dispute and had said many times it
would not take a position.
"We demand that the United States be as good as their word,
and do more to benefit peace and stability in the South China
Sea, not the opposite," Hong said.
"The Philippine side will certainly face consequences for
its provocative actions," he added, without elaborating.
China displays its claims to the South China Sea on official
maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into
the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to
parts of the potentially energy-rich waters.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Manny
Mogato in MANILA and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Editing by
Nick Macfie, Alison Williams and Paul Simao)