BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese state media on Tuesday accused the Philippines of violating morality and international law by seeking United Nations arbitration in the South China Sea territorial dispute between the two countries.
Manila at the weekend asked a UN tribunal to rule on Beijing's claims over most of the strategically significant South China Sea, submitting nearly 4,000 pages of evidence to back its case.
It argues that the Chinese stance is illegal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and interferes with the Philippines' sovereign rights to its continental shelf.
Both countries are signatories to UNCLOS, but Beijing argues that its provisions do not apply to the row.
In a commentary the People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, denounced Manila's move.
"The act of the Philippine side is against the international law and the historical truth as well as against morality and basic rules of international relations," it said.
Manila had "provoked China" by going to "so-called international arbitration, a move that is both illegal and unreasonable" and "an act lacking credibility", it said.
The commentary was reported in English by the official news agency Xinhua, often an indication that authorities want it to reach a wider audience.
China - which is vastly more powerful than any of the several countries it has disputes with in the strategically significant waters - prefers to negotiate with them individually, rather than in international forums.
"The Philippines attempted to solicit international sympathy through disguising itself as a small and weak country," the commentary said.
Manila was attempting "to legalise its invasion of Chinese islands through the arbitration", it added.
On Monday, the Philippine ambassador was summoned to hear China's strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the move, the foreign ministry said.
Deputy foreign minister Liu Zhenmin told the envoy that China's stance of neither recognising nor participating in the arbitration would never change, it said on its website.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino vowed on Monday to press ahead with the legal appeal.
"We are not here to challenge China, to provoke them into any action, but I do believe that they should recognise we also have the right to defend our own interests," he told reporters.