Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Philippine counterpart that Beijing will not recognize an international arbitration ruling that has invalidated most of China’s claims to virtually the entire South China Sea, the Philippine leader’s spokesman said. The row over the disputed waters — a major global shipping route thought to be rich in oil and gas reserves — has for years marred China’s relationship with the Philippines and other neighboring countries with rival territorial claims. Beijing has transformed a string of disputed reefs into missile-protected island bases.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has largely avoided the subject in favor of seeking warmer ties with Beijing. But under domestic pressure, Duterte raised the issue in talks with Xi in Beijing this week, Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement Friday. Duterte told Xi that the 2016 ruling of an international arbitration panel in The Hague, in which China had refused to participate, “is final, binding and not subject to appeal.”