Vietnam, Philippines Strongly Protest Against China’s including their territory in passport map

Philippines Strongly Protest Against China's including their territory in passport map. Photo: Filipiinamom.com 

THE Philippines has protested China's new passport design, which includes the image of a map of the entire disputed South China Sea.

China's new passports show a map including its claim to almost all the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) – provoking protests by the Philippines Thursday and Vietnam – but leaving out islands bitterly disputed with Japan.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday said it was unacceptable because it impinges on the sovereignty of the Philippines, which has claims to territories in the West Philippines Sea.

"The Philippines strongly protests the inclusion of the nine-dash lines in the e-passport as such image covers an area that is clearly part of the Philippines' territory and maritime domain," he said, quoting a diplomatic protest sent to Beijing.

The so-called nine-dash lines take in about 90 per cent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometre West Philippine Sea on Chinese maps.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the South China Sea, which straddles key shipping lanes in the region and is believed to be rich in resources.

In December, the Philippines are hosting a four-party meeting with Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei in a bid to resolve the territorial dispute.

Beijing has been engaged in a simmering row with its southern neighbors over its claim to vast swathes of the West Philippine Sea, with Chinese maps having a "nine-dash line" that runs almost to the Philippine and Malaysian coasts.

The row saw a maritime stand-off with Manila earlier this year and took centre stage at the East Asia Summit, attended by US President Barack Obama, earlier this week.

China and Japan have also engaged in furious exchanges over East China Sea islands administered by Tokyo, which calls them Senkaku, and claimed by Beijing as Diaoyu. China saw mass protests over them nationwide in September.

The latest front in the West Philippine Sea dispute is travel documents issued by Beijing, with its new computer-chipped passport, or e-Passport, showing various islands as Chinese territory, including the Paracels and Spratlys.

Manila claims part of the Spratlys and Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario sent Beijing a formal protest letter on Thursday, calling the maps "an excessive declaration of maritime space in violation of international law".

"The Philippines strongly protests the inclusion of the nine-dash lines in the e-Passport as such image covers an area that is clearly part of the Philippines' territory and maritime domain," del Rosario said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Raul Hernandez added: "If we allow that, then that would mean acquiescence to their claim of the whole of the South China Sea."

The West Philippine Seais strategically significant, home to some of the world's most important shipping lanes and believed to be rich in resources.

The Paracel islands lie within it and have been held by China since it forced out South Vietnamese troops in 1974, but they are still claimed by Hanoi.

Some social media users in China said the maps had delayed them at Vietnamese immigration.

"I got into Vietnam after lots of twists and turns," said one user of China's hugely popular micro blogging site Sina Weibo, saying an entry stamp was initially refused "because of the printed map of China's sea boundaries – which Vietnam does not recognize".

Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi told reporters on Thursday that the Chinese documents amounted to a violation of Hanoi's sovereignty and it had protested to the embassy.

Officials handed Chinese representatives "a diplomatic note opposing the move, asking China to abolish the wrongful contents printed in these electronic passports", he said.

Other claimants to parts of the West Philippine Seaare Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Beijing attempted to downplay the diplomatic fallout from the recently introduced passports, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman saying the maps were "not made to target any specific country".

"We hope to maintain active communication with relevant countries and promote the healthy development of people to people exchanges," Hua Chunying added.

In Tokyo, a foreign ministry official said: "We have confirmed that disputed islands in West Philippine Seaappear in a map printed on new Chinese passports.

"On the other hand, Senkaku doesn't. Therefore, we are not in a position to comment or complain." (http://is.gd/AlEA7q)

The Australian News 

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