The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines -- China's rejection of the Philippine suggestion to bring their conflicting territorial claims before a United Nations-backed tribunal will weaken China's claims over the Spratlys, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said Wednesday.
Reacting to the statement issued by China in Beijing, Del Rosario said: "China's hesitation to accept the Philipine suggestion to elevate their dispute to Itlos (International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea) could lead to the conclusion that China may not be able to validate their stated positions in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
Del Rosario was in China on July 7-9 for a discussion on the disuted islands off the South China Sea, which the Philippines has renamed West Philippine Sea in an effort to strengthen its claims following the alleged incursions of China into Philippine territories.
"China always maintains that the South China Sea dispute should be resolved... through direct negotiations between directly concerned countries," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.
He added the row should also be dealt with according to "recognized international laws."
China and the Philippines have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, which is believed to hold vast mineral resources, as do Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
The tribunal is an independent judicial body established by Unclos to handle disputes.
Speaking to reporters after his visit, Del Rosario said he pointed out that the Philippines' claims over parts of the South China Sea, including the Spratly islands, were "based on international law, specifically Unclos."
Chinese officials however said their claims were based on "historic rights", the secretary said.
The Philippines and Vietnam have in recent months accused China of taking increasingly aggressive actions in staking its claims in the disputed waters, including an incident where the Chinese allegedly fired on Filipino fishermen.
In April, the Philippines lodged a formal protest at the United Nations over China's claims.