World News‎ > ‎

China issues new passports with sea claims, angering neighbours

posted 23 Nov 2012, 03:33 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 23 Nov 2012, 03:34 ]

China issues new passports containing a map of disputed maritime claims.

BEIJINGCHINA (NOVEMBER 23, 2012) (REUTERS) -  The Chinese government issued new passports containing a map of China's disputed maritime claims on Thursday (November 22).

The map means countries disputing the Chinese claims will have to stamp microchip-equipped passports of countless visitors, in effect acquiescing to the Chinese point of view.

Stand-offs between Chinese vessels and the Philippine and Vietnamese navies in theSouth China Sea have become more common as China increases patrols in waters believed to hold vast reserves of oil and natural gas.

It was not clear when China began printing the new passports.

Just after receiving her new passport on Friday (November 23), Qinghua University student who identified herself as Chen voiced her support for the move.

"It should be printed on here, because this was originally China's, right? There may be other disputes with foreign countries, but (the islands) originally were ours, so we think they should be printed here. It's just like the Diaoyu Islands--we should be take back what's ours," she said.

The Philippines and Vietnam on Thursday condemned the move, branding the new design a violation of their sovereignty.

Vietnam had written to China in protest against the new passports and had asked it to "reverse their incorrect content".

Beijing resident Chen Chuliang, who plans to go on a packaged island tour of countries in the South China Sea, including Vietnam and the Philippines, said he was worried.

"I hope (the tour) doesn't choose to go to these countries (Vietnam and the Philippines). If the controversy is too big, then I hope they do not choose (to go to) these countries," he said.

China's foreign ministry said at a news conference on Thursday (November 22) that the new passports met international standards.

"China's standard electronic passports are issued according to international civil aviation standards, which various other countries of the world also promote. The design on the passport will feature a silhouette of a map of ChinaChina is not targeting a specific country. China is willing to communicate with the relevant countries to make great effort to continue communication and promote contact and healthy development between Chinese and foreign personnel," China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The territorial dispute spilled over into Southeast Asia's normally serene government summits this year, with China accused of seeking to stall debate and divide the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) over the issue.

Philippine diplomats accused China at this week's summit in Phnom Penh of using its influence over host Cambodia to push a formal statement saying that ASEAN did not want to "internationalize" the dispute.