Despite China's refusal, Hague tribunal gives it a Dec. 15 deadline to defend vast sea claims

An international tribunal has asked China to defend its territorial claims in the South China Sea by submitting written arguments within six months despite its refusal to meet a Philippine legal challenge to those sweeping claims.

China has refused to join the arbitration process initiated last year by the Philippine government. Philippine officials on Wednesday reiterated a call to China to join the arbitration as a peaceful and durable solution to resolve the long-raging territorial disputes.

The Hague-based tribunal issued a statement Tuesday giving China until Dec. 15 to submit arguments and evidence against the Philippine complaint, which questions the validity of China's so-called vast "nine-dash" claim, which refers to a rough Chinese demarcation of its territorial claims that cover virtually the entire strategic waters.