Britain aligns with US on response to South China Sea case

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Britain said Monday it will stand alongside the U.S. in supporting an upcoming ruling by an international tribunal in a case that challenges the legality of China's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Beijing says the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which is hearing the case, has no jurisdiction in the matter. The case was brought by the Philippines in 2013 and a ruling is expected by mid-year.

Hugo Swire, British minister of state for the foreign office, told a Washington think tank that growing tensions in the South China Sea are driven by China's assertive actions. He said any ruling by the court should be binding on both parties but it would also be an opportunity for renewed dialogue between the Chinese and Philippine governments.

"In our response to this ruling, the U.K. will stand alongside the U.S. and the wider international community," he told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Swire pushed back against perceptions that Britain is unwilling to challenge Beijing because it wants Chinese investment, saying London will "continue to speak up loudly in support of rules and against coercion."

During a state visit to Britain by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in October, the two countries agreed on more than 30 billion pounds ($46 billion) in business deals, including a major Chinese stake in a planned nuclear power plant in western England.

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