MANILA, Philippines — China is standing pat on its decision to reject arbitration by an international tribunal that will begin formal hearings this week to resolve a long-seething feud with the Philippines over the South China Sea, Beijing’s ambassador to Manila said Monday.
The five-member tribunal starts hearings in The Hague on Tuesday to address China’s contention that the arbitration body does not have authority to assume jurisdiction over Manila’s complaint against Beijing.
A high-level delegation that includes the Philippines’ solicitor-general and the heads of the foreign, defense and justice departments, along with Washington-based lawyers hired by Manila, have flown to The Hague to argue the Philippines’ case.
The dayslong hearings are crucial because the Philippines’ complaint against China could no longer be heard if the tribunal declares it has no jurisdiction over the case.
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua told reporters in Manila that his government would stick to its decision not to participate in the arbitration and instead renewed China’s offer to resolve the conflict through one-on-one negotiations with the Philippines.
“Our position is consistent. We’ll not accept nor participate in the arbitration,” Zhao said. “Our door for bilateral consultation and negotiation is still open and will be open forever.”
Responding to a question from a reporter, Zhao reiterated that China would never start a war with the Philippines over the long-contested territories. “I cannot imagine that China would wage a war against the Philippines over what is happening in the South China Sea. It is not China’s policy, and will not be China’s policy,” he said.