China summons Philippine diplomat over sea dispute

China on Wednesday summoned a top Philippine diplomat and expressed concern over the "harassment" of Chinese fishing boats in disputed waters in the South China Sea, as a maritime stand-off rumbled on.

The two countries have traded barbs for more than a week over a territorial dispute that centres on a disputed shoal not far from the Philippines' main island of Luzon, and has increased tensions in the region.

On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying had summoned the charge d'affaires of the Philippine embassy on Sunday and Wednesday to lodge representations over the row.

"We urge the Philippines to bear in mind the overall good relationship between China and the Philippines," Liu said.

The dispute centres on a group of islands known in the Philippines as Scarborough Shoal and called Huangyan island in Chinese and claimed by both countries.

It first erupted last week when Chinese vessels blocked a Filipino warship from arresting the crews of Chinese fishing boats in the area, and spiked this week when Chinese vessels were accused of harassing a Filipino research ship.

Beijing, however, claims the warship harassed the fishing boats, and has urged the archaeological research vessel to "leave the area immediately".

"Philippine military vessels' harassment of Chinese fishing vessels around Huangyan island have drawn the high concern of China," Liu told reporters.

"We hope the Philippine side will honour its commitments and withdraw its ships in relevant waters immediately so that the waters off Huangyan island can return to peace and stability."

The incidents are some of the most high-profile flare-ups in recent years between the two countries over their competing territorial claims to parts of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

China insists it has sovereign rights to all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coast of other countries and hundreds of kilometres (miles) from its own landmass.

The Philippines says it has sovereign rights over areas of the sea within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, and that its position is supported by international law.

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