China suffered a legal setback on Thursday when an arbitration court in the Netherlands ruled it had jurisdiction to hear some territorial claims the Philippines has filed against Beijing over the South China Sea.
But China was quick to declare that it would not abide by the ruling.
The court said additional hearings would be held to decide the merits of the Philippines' arguments. China has not participated in the proceedings and does not recognise the court's authority in the case.
Manila filed the case in 2013 to seek a ruling on its right to exploit the South China Sea waters in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as allowed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The Chinese foreign ministry today said in a statement that the ruling by the Arbitral Tribunal on Thursday on the jurisdiction and admissibility of the South China Sea is null and void, and has no binding effect on China.
The tribunal ruled that it can take on the case over the South China Sea dispute.
"The result of the ruling will by no means affect China's sovereignty and rights on the South China Sea." vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin said in a media briefing.
China's sovereignty and rights in the South China Sea are grounded in history and protected under international laws including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), according to a statement released by the foreign ministry.
The statement also said that the Philippines' decision to seek arbitration was "a political provocation under the cloak of law".
"The motivation [behind] the arbitration is not to settle disputes, but an attempt to negate China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea for its own sake." Liu said.
He reiterated China's position of "non-acceptance and non-participation" in the proceedings.
Criticizing the Philippines for failing to adhere to its own commitment to settle disputes through negotiation and consultation, Liu said this was not the way to solve disputes.
On several occasions since the 1990s, China and the Philippines have agreed, and reaffirmed that disputes would be resolved through negotiation and consultation.
"We will continue to approach disputes in this way, including with the Philippines, and to jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the South China Sea." Liu said.
The Philippine government welcomed the court decision.
Solicitor general Florin Hilbay, Manila chief's lawyer in the case, said the ruling represented a "significant step forward in the Philippines' quest for a peaceful, impartial resolution of the disputes between the parties and the clarification of their rights under UNCLOS".