Beijing: China waded into a new controversy over its maritime claims as Vietnam and the Philippines protested the printing of Chinese map on the new e-passport showing the disputed islands in the South China Sea as part of its territory.
Reports say both the Philippines and Vietnam have objected to China over the e-passport including the disputed islands in the South China Sea which they lay claim to.
Though technically it is Chinese passport, they argue that it posed a problem in stamping visas to its holders as it could amount to endorsing China`s stand.
Thousands of Chinese tourists visit these countries every year. China began issuing new passports containing an electronic chip this year.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security said in May that the introduction of e-passport will help improve the security effectively preventing counterfeiting.
Besides name and date of birth, the chipped passport will now contain the holder`s fingerprints, signature and digital photo and could facilitate automatic processing at customs points.
It also apparently contained a map inside with nine dashes showing the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Japanese Embassy officials said the disputed islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China appeared to have not been included in the map and said they are not taking any specific measures in this regard.
China in recent months raised strong objections to Japan buying the islands from private owners and the issue lead to steady deterioration in bilateral relations.
Defending the move, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying told a media briefing here today that "relevant Chinese map on the passport is not made to target any specific country".
"We hope to maintain active communication with relevant countries and promote healthy development of people-to-people exchanges", she said answering a question.
She said the new e-passport being issued by Chinese government is made according to the standard of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The Philippines and Vietnam besides Brunei and Malaysia were locked in a maritime dispute with China over the islands in South China Sea.
The dispute flared up at the just concluded 10-member ASEAN summit in Cambodia, which in recent years emerged as a close ally of China, benefiting from large aid, investments and preferential trade policies.
Reports say the Philippines intervened to remove a clause in the statement issued by host Cambodia stating that ASEAN countries would not like to internationalise the South China Sea disputes.