Beijing dismisses a ruling against China’s sweeping claims in the disputed South China Sea from an international court.

"The award is null and void and has no binding force," the Foreign Ministry said of the decision from the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

"China opposes and does not accept any claims and actions based on the arbitration award," the ministry said in a statement posted to its website Tuesday evening.

"The Philippines unilaterally instituted arbitration" by bringing the case, it said. "The purpose was malicious and not to solve the dispute with China, nor to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea."

Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea

Beijing claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including small islands hundreds of kilometres from its southern coast.

Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei have competing claims with China as does Taiwan.

Vietnam claims the Spratly Islands and the nearby Paracels.

China's other major dispute is over Scarborough Shoal with the Philippines, which also claims part of the Spratlys.

The South China Sea contains key shipping lanes and has estimated oil reserves of up to 30 billion tons and 20 trillion cubic metres of gas reserves, according to China's Ministry of Land and Resources.

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