Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Filipino government plans to take China before an international tribunal to challenge its position over South China Sea islands that both countries claim. For its part, United Nations head Ban Ki-moon urged both parties to use every means to reach an "amicable" settlement. Meanwhile, a Japanese envoy has arrived in the Chinese capital to try to solve the dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.
Filipino Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said that his government would seek the opinion of an international arbitration tribunal on the Scarborough Shoal, a group if small islands that lie within the Philippines' 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, a claim China dismisses in favour of its own historical claim.
In a statement, the Chinese ambassador to Manila reiterated Beijing's position "that China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in [the] South China Sea and its adjacent waters."
At the same time, Beijing "strongly holds the disputes on [the] South China Sea should be settled by parties concerned through negotiations," Ambassador Ma Keqing added.
China, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Philippines and Malaysia claim the islands and their oil-rich seabed, and have vied for their control over the years.
However, both the Philippines and Vietnam have accused China of becoming more aggressive in its claim of sovereignty over the area.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an "amicable" settlement to the South China Sea dispute. "It is important for those countries in the region to resolve all these issues through dialogue in a peaceful and amicable way," he said.
The United Nations is ready "to provide technical and professional assistance, but primarily all these issues should be resolved by the parties concerned", the UN leader added.
In addition to its dispute with Manila, Beijing is involved in another row, this one with Tokyo over the Senkaku Islands, which the Chinese call Diaoyu.
Following a number of provocations that might have led to a military clash, a Japanese envoy arrived in Beijing yesterday to discuss a peaceful settlement.
The quarrel has had a negative impact on the relations between the world's second and third largest economies in the world. The squabble over sovereignty has already cost them billions of dollars in lost contracts or unfulfilled agreements.
The visit by Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the Japanese coalition partner New Komeito, is intended to defuse the situation.
He will bring with him a letter from Japan's hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for Chinese leaders.
During his four-day stay, he will meet with various Chinese leaders. In his view, there is no alternative to dialogue. In spite of diverging views, neither party can avoid finding a settlement.