Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - China has countered a Philippine diplomatic protest at the United Nations by saying it has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly islands that the Southeast Asian country "started to invade" in the 1970s.
China's diplomatic note to the UN, a copy of which was seen by The Associated Press, said the Philippine occupation of some islands and reefs in the Nansha islands infringes on China's sovereignty. The Spratlys are known to the Chinese as Nansha islands.
A Philippine protest filed to the UN earlier this month said China's claim to islands, adjacent waters, seabed and subsoil in the South China Sea had no basis in international law. The territorial claims were detailed in a map submitted to the UN in 2009.
The Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Viet Nam claim in whole or in part the Spratlys - a group of islands, reefs and atolls in the South China Sea believed to be sitting atop vast oil and gas reserves.
Viet Nam and Malaysia filed protests in 2009 against China's map, and Indonesia, a nonclaimant to the disputed territory, also protested last year.
The protests are registered with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which will help mediate conflicting claims on territories.
China said the contents of the Philippine diplomatic note "are totally unacceptable to the Chinese government".
The Philippines has said the Kalayaan Island Group in the Spratlys was an integral part of the country, which has sovereignty and jurisdiction over nearby waters and geological features under the international law principle that land dominates the sea.
China said the Kalayaan Island Group was part of its Nansha islands and its sovereign and related rights were supported by abundant historical and legal evidence.
It said before the 1970s, the Philippines never made any claims to the islands in a series of treaties defining its territory.
"Since the 1970s, the Republic of the Philippines started to invade and occupy some islands and reefs of China's Nansha islands and made relevant territorial claims, to which China objects strongly," said China's April 14 note to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
China said the doctrine that a legal right cannot arise from an unlawful act applied, thus the Philippines could not rightfully claim the islands.
Asked for comment, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of the Philippines said the note verbale sent by the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN "speaks for itself".
"We should leave it at that," DFA spokesperson J. Eduardo Malaya told Philippine Daily Inquirer.