U.S. to raise passport map issue with China

WASHINGTON Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:11pm GMT

1 of 2. A woman holds a Chinese passport, displaying a Chinese map which includes an area in the South China Sea inside a line of dashes representing maritime territory claimed by China (L, top) and a picture of Beijing's Tiananmen Square (bottom), at an office in Wuhan airport, Hubei province, November 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will raise concerns with China over a new map in Chinese passports which details claims to disputed maritime territory, alarming some of its Southeast Asian neighbours, the State Department said on Tuesday.

"We do have concerns about this map which is causing tension and anxiety between and among the states in the South China Sea," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing. "We do intend to raise this with the Chinese in terms of it not being helpful to the environment we all seek to resolve these issues."

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

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

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.

"That's a different matter than whether it's politically smart or helpful to be taking steps that antagonize countries that we want to see a negotiation happen with," Nuland said.

(Reporting By Andrew Quinn; Editing by Todd Eastham)

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