Beijing rejects South China Sea arbitration as hearing starts

BEIJING, China – China on Tuesday, November 24, reaffirmed that it will "not accept" a judicial arbitration on the South China Sea, as an international court was due to hear a case bought by the Philippines.

Manila has called for the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to rule on the increasingly bitter dispute, appealing to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, putting it in conflict with several neighbors, and is a party to the Convention but has rejected the court's jurisdiction on the issue.

"Our position is clear: we will not participate to or accept the arbitration," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing.

Hong issued the statement as the Philippines’ powerhouse team against China returned to The Hague on Tuesday, to defend Manila’s historic case against Beijing over the disputed area the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Powerhouse PH team vs China back in The Hague)

Beijing has never precisely defined its claims to the strategic waterway, through which about a third of all the world's traded oil passes.

The waters – claimed in part by Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei – have become the stage for a tussle for dominance between Beijing and Washington, the world's two largest economic and military powers.

Following a stand-off between Chinese ships and the weak Philippine Navy in 2012, China took control of a rich fishing ground called Scarborough Shoal that is within the Philippines' claimed exclusive economic zone.

Manila hopes a judgement in its favor will pressure Beijing into making concessions.

China has refused to participate in the proceedings, arguing the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no jurisdiction over the matter.

Beijing has in recent years rapidly built artificial islands, which neighbors fear will be used as military outposts.

In a July hearing in The Hague, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario warned the integrity of UN maritime laws was at stake. (READ: PH to Hague tribunal: China threatens law of the sea)

China's behavior had become increasingly "aggressive" and negotiations had proved futile, del Rosario said. – Rappler.com