China decries attempt to 'read too much into' passport map row

Posted at 11/28/2012 6:35 PM | Updated as of 11/28/2012 6:35 PM

BEIJING - China said on Wednesday that people should not read too much into the placement of a new map in its passports that depicts claims to disputed maritime territory, after the United States said it would raise concerns with Beijing over the issue.

The Philippines and Vietnam have condemned the new microchip-equipped passports, saying the map they incorporate violates their national sovereignty by marking disputed waters as Chinese territory.

A page from a Chinese passport displays a Chinese map which includes an area in the South China Sea inside a line of dashes representing maritime territory claimed by China, in Kunming, Yunnan province, November 23, 2012. Reuters

India, which also claims two Himalayan regions shown as Chinese territory on the map, is responding by issuing visas stamped with its own version of the borders.

"The aim of China's new electronic passports is to strengthen its technological abilities and make it convenient for Chinese citizens to enter or leave the country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

"The issue of the maps in China's new passports should not be read too much into. China is willing to remain in touch with relevant countries and promote the healthy development of the exchange of people between China and the outside world."

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States had concerns about China's map causing "tension and anxiety" between countries in the South China Sea.

The United States, which has urged China and its Southeast Asian neighbours to agree on a code of conduct as a first step toward reducing tensions over the South China Sea, will continue to accept the new Chinese passports because they meet the standards of a legal travel document.