MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines on Monday urged China to respect a forthcoming ruling by an arbitration court in The Hague on a territorial dispute in the South China Sea after Beijing accused Manila of "political provocation".
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.
China refuses to recognize the case lodged by the Philippines with the tribunal and says all disputes should be resolved through bilateral talks.
"The Philippines, as well as the international community, is asking China to respect the forthcoming ruling of the arbitral tribunal and together advance an international rules-based regime," Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement in Manila.
"If China does not heed our collective call, does it mean that China considers itself above the law?"
The tribunal's ruling was expected before May, said del Rosario. Manila and Beijing had met several times to discuss maritime disputes but nothing had been resolved, he added.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei repeated on Monday that China would not participate in the case. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on a visit to the United States last week, accused the Philippines of "political provocation" in seeking arbitration to resolve the dispute.
Wang held talks last week with his counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said China was rapidly militarizing the waterway after building artificial islands and deploying fighters and missiles.
Wang defended China's actions as self-defense but said it would remain open for two-way talks with countries claiming the South China Sea.
The Philippines and Japan, which has its own territorial dispute with China in the East China Sea, on Monday signed a military agreement allowing the transfer of aircraft and equipment to the Philippines.
Japan is ready to lease at least five TC-90 King Air planes to the Philippines as a training aircraft for surveillance and reconnaissance, a military official said.
The Philippines has expressed interest in getting old P3C-Orion planes from Japan after it started using the sophisticated P1 surveillance aircraft, the equivalent of the US Navy's P8 Poseidon.
Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie