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China urges Philippines to ditch its South China Sea case

BEIJING (AP) — China urged the Philippines on Tuesday to ditch its attempt to solve South China Sea territorial disputes with an international tribunal and instead negotiate with Beijing directly, following the arbitration panel’s latest request for input from China.

The Philippines has asked the tribunal in The Hague to declare China’s claims to virtually all the South China Sea invalid, saying Beijing’s actions have trampled on other nations’ rights.

China contends the tribunal doesn’t have jurisdiction, and has refused to participate. The tribunal, which operates under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea, held a weeklong hearing ending Monday to address China’s contention. It said that Beijing has until Aug. 17 to comment on the hearing, and that it should make a ruling on the issue this year.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Tuesday reiterated China’s opposition to the arbitration, and said China “will never accept the unilateral attempts to turn to a third party to solve the disputes.”

“China urges the Philippines to come back to the right track of resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation,” she said in a statement.

The Philippines praised the tribunal’s effort to prod China again to join the case, saying the five-man arbitration body has been fair and transparent in its handling of Manila’s complaints against Beijing.

“We have asked China to participate and we continue to extend the invitation for them to explain their side,” Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said by phone in Manila.

China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have been contesting ownership of the resource-rich South China Sea. The United States and other countries have expressed concerns over China’s island-building in the region that they say has been provocative and has damaged vast coral reefs in the disputed waters.

Beijing says fears that it would eventually limit freedom of navigation and overflight to back its claims are unfounded.

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Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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