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International Court to Rule in July on South China Sea Dispute

Filipino students hold replicas of Chinese maritime surveillance ships during a rally near Malacanang Palace in Manila, March 3, 2016, to denounce reported Chinese vessels dropping anchor near a South China Sea atoll claimed by the Philippines.

An international court will deliver an eagerly awaited ruling next month on a case filed by the Philippines against China's claim over the South China Sea.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration said Wednesday that it would rule on July 12, but it urged a peaceful resolution of the dispute.

Manila filed the suit against Beijing in 2013 over China's historical claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Several Southeast Asian states have overlapping claims in the sea, and the dispute has sparked concerns of a military confrontation that could disrupt global trade.

Philippines Claims
Philippines Claims

China has refused to participate in any hearings and says it will not comply with any decisions by the tribunal. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, "On the issue of territory and disputes over maritime delineation, China does not accept any dispute resolution from a third party and does not accept any dispute resolution forced on China."

Outgoing Philippine President Benigno Aquino said his government decided to take China to international arbitration after the Asian giant took effective control of a disputed shoal and later reneged on a U.S.-brokered arrangement for Manila and Beijing to simultaneously withdraw their ships from the fishing area.

Six governments have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea: China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

South China Sea territorial claims map
South China Sea territorial claims map

China bases its claim on a "nine-dash line" that dates to the 1940s and stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia, covering hundreds of disputed islands and reefs, rich fishing grounds, and oil and gas deposits.

Washington has taken no side regarding the competing claims in the region, but it has declared that it is in the U.S. national interest for the disputes to be peacefully resolved, and that freedom of navigation and overflight should not be impeded.

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