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Philippines Takes China Island Dispute to UN Tribunal

Filipinos chant anti-China slogans as they march towards the Chinese consulate in Manila's Makati financial district, May 11, 2012.
The Philippines is taking China to a United Nations court in hopes of settling a long-running dispute over territory in the South China Sea.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says Manila is taking the case to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea because it has "exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a negotiated settlement."

"The Philippines is requesting the arbitral tribunal to issue an award that, among other [things] ... declares that China's maritime claims in the South China Sea based on its so-called nine-dash line are contrary to UNCLOS and invalid," he said.

The Philippines claims the waters under a provision of a U.N. convention, signed by both nations, that permits countries to declare an exclusive economic zone extending 370 kilometers from their shores.

China's claims nearly the entire 3.5 million square-kilometer South China Sea, putting it at odds not only with the Philippines, but also Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

There was no immediate response from China, which has said the disputes should be settled through direct talks.

The disputes have become increasingly tense in recent months as countries increase exploration for oil and gas beneath the seabed.

Last year, Chinese and Philippine ships were involved in a weeks-long standoff at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, an uninhabited archipelago claimed by both countries.