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China rejects Philippine effort at UN mediation over South China Sea territorial dispute

China says it has rejected the Philippines' attempt to seek international arbitration over conflicting claims to territory in the South China Sea.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday that China's ambassador to Manila, Ma Keqing, had returned Manila's formal notification of the move to a Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs official. Hong said the proposal was historically and legally incorrect and contained unacceptable accusations against China.

The Philippines informed China last month of its plans to take the countries' conflicting claims to a tribunal operating under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It wants the panel to declare Beijing's moves in the potentially oil-rich waters unlawful.

Six governments have overlapping claims in the South China Sea. China claims sovereignty over virtually all of it.