Philippines seeks US support over disputes with China

Manila, Jan 29 (IANS) The Philippines is trying to win US support for its move to bring territorial disputes with China to international arbitration, China's state-run Xinhua news agency said Tuesday.

A US congressional delegation headed by Ed Royce, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, was briefed on the arbitration issue by Philippines' Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The US lawmakers were told that Manila needed to go on a legal track because its efforts at diplomacy and moves to settle it through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) did not yield any result, according to Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia.

The five-member US delegation expressed their support to Manila's efforts "to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner and in accordance to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea", an official said.

US Congressman Royce said: "We always believe that it's in everyone's interest to resolve these issues through dialogue. We want to calm the tensions, we want this approached from the standpoint of diplomacy."

The Philippines government Jan 22 took the disputes with China on South China Sea to an Arbitral Tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In response, China urged the Philippines to avoid taking any action that could complicate the South China Sea issue.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha islands and its adjacent waters. Our claim has abundant historical and legal grounds," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

"The key and root of the dispute between China and the Philippines is the Philippines' illegal occupation of some islets and reefs of the Nansha islands. China has always opposed the Philippines' illegal occupation," he said.

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