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Tuesday, July 5, 2016, 09:43

Ruling will be illegal, Beijing says

By An Baijie

The tribunal hearing the arbitration case launched unilaterally by the Philippines against China is just a mouthpiece for some countries, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday.

He said the tribunal ruling, which is due to be announced on July 12, will be an illegal outcome based on abuse of power.

Spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks while commenting on a Reuters report.

The report quoted Paul S. Reichler, the Philippines' chief lawyer in the arbitration case, expressing confidence that the tribunal registered at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague would rule in Manila's favor. Reichler said he had little doubt that Manila would win the case.

Hong said it is not surprising that Reichler, as a lawyer for the Philippines, is familiar with Manila's thinking.

"However, it's really strange that he knows how the so-called ruling is worded," Hong said.

The former Philippine government of Benigno Aquino unilaterally launched the arbitration case against China over maritime disputes in early 2013.

China insists that the tribunal appointed by the court has no jurisdiction over the issue because it concerns territorial and security issues.

"China's sovereignty and interests will not be affected by the illegal ruling," Hong said, adding that China's claims in the South China Sea have a historical and legal basis.

Sources close to the issues between the two countries have said that China is ready to start negotiations with the Philippines if Manila ignores the arbitration ruling.

On Friday, Philippine presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said that new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who was sworn in on Thursday, wants a "conversation" with China on the South China Sea issue in an attempt to work out a "win-win relationship".

AP quoted a Philippine official as saying that the Chinese ambassador has worked hard to repair damaged relations with Manila and had told Filipino diplomats Beijing would invite Duterte to visit China in the next six months.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not comment on the issue on Monday.

The AP report said Duterte had asked US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg whether Washington would support Manila in case of a possible confrontation with Beijing, and that Goldberg had responded, "Only if you are attacked."

Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said China's stance of resolving the South China Sea issue through negotiation and dialogue should be supported by the countries concerned.

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