China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday it would "not participate" in an arbitration case lodged by the Philippines over a South China Sea dispute, hours after Manila asked Beijing to respect the case.
"China has adequate international legal evidence to not accept nor participate in the South China Sea arbitration case lodged by the Philippines. This stance is clear and consistent. The essence of the China-Philippines dispute over the South China Sea is the dispute over territorial sovereignty and marine demarcation," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei told media at a regular briefing in Beijing.
Earlier on Monday, the Philippines urged China to respect a forthcoming ruling by an arbitration court in The Hague on a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
The comments came after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on a visit to the United States last week, accused the Philippines of "political provocation" in seeking arbitration to resolve the dispute.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.
China refuses to recognize the case lodged by the Philippines with the tribunal and says all disputes should be resolved through bilateral talks.
The tribunal's ruling was expected before May, said Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario. Manila and Beijing had met several times to discuss maritime disputes but nothing had been resolved, he added.
Wang held talks last week with his counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said China was rapidly militarizing the waterway after building artificial islands and deploying fighters and missiles.
Wang defended China's actions as self-defense but said it would remain open for two-way talks with countries claiming the South China Sea.