Disputed isles: UN tribunal probes Manila's complaint

MANILA - A United Nations arbitration tribunal has convened in The Hague to look into a complaint lodged by the Philippine government questioning the legality of China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The five-member tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea convened last Thursday in the Netherlands and approved a set of rules to look into the legal challenge Manila launched against Beijing in January, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said yesterday.

China and the Philippines, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, have overlapping claims across the strategic and resource-rich South China Sea, with China saying it has sovereignty over virtually all of it.

The Philippines argues in its complaint that China's vast territorial claim, including its occupation of several South China Sea islets and reefs in past years, violate the UN convention and should be declared invalid.

China has staunchly opposed attempts to involve third parties or world bodies in the South China Sea disputes.

ASSOCIATED PRESS