Philippines disputes China claim to sovereignty over Spratly archipelago, where Beijing is building military bases on artificial islands
Rival claims to strategic reefs and atolls in the disputed waters of the South China Sea are to go before an international tribunal in The Hague.
The hearing on Tuesday – prompted by the Philippines’ claim – comes as China steps up its divisive programme of building airstrips and defences in the Spratly Islands. As well as the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei all dispute sovereignty over the mid-ocean outcrops.
Last month, the US raised the stakes by sailing a warship through a 12-nautical mile zone around two artificial islands in the archipelago. China responded by accusing the US of “provocative actions”.
Beijing refuses to recognise the authority of the permanent court of arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, the UN-appointed tribunal that adjudicates in international disputes over maritime territory, in this issue. China has stated: “It will neither accept nor participate in the arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines.”