China says more than 40 countries support its stance on South China Sea dispute

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Friday more than 40 countries support its position on an international legal case brought by the Philippines over its claims in the South China Sea.

China refuses to recognize the Philippine case and says all disputes should be resolved through bilateral talks.

Beijing has stepped up its rhetoric ahead of an expected ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the Philippines case.

China claims almost all of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

“As far as I know, there are more than 40 countries that have made statements or made their positions known through all kinds of means,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing.

“More and more countries are expressing themselves and showing their support for China on the South China Sea issue.”

She added that any unbiased country would support China.

Countries including Burundi, Slovenia, Niger and Mozambique had pledged their support for China, the Foreign Ministry said this week.

Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Nick Macfie