China condemns Philippines over disputed sea arbitration

BEIJING - China on Sunday slammed the Philippines for challenging its territorial claims over the South China Sea through international arbitration, refusing to back down just a week before a deadline to respond in the case.

The Philippines infuriated China in March by filing a formal plea with a United Nations tribunal challenging Beijing's maritime claims.

The tribunal gave Beijing until December 15 to reply, but China reaffirmed Sunday that it would not submit to arbitration to resolve the dispute, which has heightened tensions.

"By initiating compulsory arbitration at this moment, the Philippines is running counter to the common wish and joint efforts of China and ASEAN member states," the government said in a lengthy position paper.

"Its underlying goal is not... to seek peaceful settlement of the South China Sea issue, but rather, by resorting to arbitration, to put political pressure on China," said the paper published by the official Xinhua news agency.

Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea - which is home to crucial shipping lanes, vast fishing areas and potentially valuable mineral resources - including areas close to the coastlines of other nations.

Its claims conflict with those of Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam as well as the Philippines.

It has been accused of becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims to the sea.

China has long rejected arbitration, insisting on resolving territorial disputes bilaterally.

"The unilateral initiation of the arbitration by the Philippines will not change the history and fact of China's sovereignty over the South China Sea... nor will it shake China's resolve to safeguard its... interests," the government paper said.