BEIJING, March 31 (Xinhua) -- Shutting the door to a negotiated solution, the Philippine government went its own way on Sunday pleading for international arbitration over its territorial disputes with China over South China Sea.
The legal ploy, though carefully designed, is doomed to failure. By portraying itself as a victim "bullied" by China and crying for legal remedies, Manila's ulterior motive is to gain international sympathy for its groundless claim over the South China Sea issue.
As a matter of fact, it is the Philippines that encroached on those Chinese territories for years. China's indisputable sovereignty over them can be proven by abundant historical and legal evidence, while its maritime rights to the waters enclosed within the nine-dash lines in South China Sea are upheld by history.
From the perspective of procedure, China has already made a statement in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2006, pointing out that relevant disputes do not apply to arbitration procedure.
Beijing has a legitimate right under international law to reject the call for such arbitration, which renders Manila's legal attack futile.
The Philippine government knows perfectly well that it is attempting the impossible. It simply wants to earn easy credit by posing as a good guy who resorts to international law.
However, it has to be noted that the "good guy" betrayed its commitment to a negotiated solution to its disputes with China. This commitment is solemnly stated in the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, a key document signed by China and ASEAN countries to ensure peace and stability in the region. It is also contained in a series of bilateral documents to which China and the Philippines agree.
China has been consistent in its emphasis to have direct dialogue with relevant ASEAN countries to solve their territorial disputes bilaterally, and it has been working with the Philippine government to that end.
Manila's reckless push for arbitration will not only further hurt its relations with China, but also hamper the ongoing effort for an amicable solution to the South China Sea issue by effectively closing the door to negotiations.
As a close neighbor and trading partner of Beijing, Manila has a big stake in the smooth development of their bilateral ties, to which a wise return to the negotiation table is crucial.
The Philippine government should neither underestimate Beijing's resolve to safeguard its territory nor ignore the call for a negotiated solution. Otherwise, it would make a wrong calculation.