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China should accept Hague ruling: Brownlee

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 11/06/2016

China should accept the Hague's ruling on the South China Sea dispute, New Zealand's defence minister believes.

An international tribunal convening in the Hague is expected to make a ruling in coming weeks on a case brought by the Philippines in 2013 over China's island-building in large parts of the sea - one of the world's trade routes.

The construction of 3000 acres of artificial islands in the sea by China has been a source or major geopolitical tension.

But the Chinese government has said it maintains the right to reject the decision.

New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee on Saturday told TV3's The Nation that while New Zealand did not take sides in the dispute, he expected the rule of law to prevail.

"We want freedom of navigation, we want freedom of overflight, we want the open lines of communication and we expect there will be adherence to international law," he said.

"We don't take a position on who has the particular territorial claim to any of those atolls or islands."

Asked if he thought China should accept the decision, Mr Brownlee said it was a matter for the Chinese government to decide, but "we believe they should".

"Having said that, there are bilateral discussions at the moment between the six countries that are most affected."

Mr Brownlee reiterated earlier comments that the case was novel and a challenging one in terms of international law.

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