US to raise 'unhelpful' passports with China

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 28 2012 08:13 AM | Updated as of Nov 28 2012 04:14 PM

WASHINGTON - The United States plans to raise controversial new Chinese passports with Beijing, saying the documents featuring a map laying claim to disputed islands, were not helpful.

"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 said.

"We do intend to raise this with the Chinese," she said, adding the new passports were not "helpful to the environment we all seek to resolve these issues."

Taiwan last week protested after China started issuing the new travel documents with maps featuring two of the island's most famous scenic spots as part of Chinese territory.

And Vietnamese immigration officers said Tuesday they were refusing to stamp entry visas into the new biometric passports which show the contested Paracel and Spratly Islands as Chinese territory, saying they violated its sovereignty.

Nuland said the United States would accept the passports as a valid travel document, as it was up to countries "to decide what their passports look like as long as they meet international standards."

But she argued the look of a document was different from "taking steps that antagonize countries that we want to see a negotiation happen with."

China's new passports also provoked protests by the Philippines for showing various islands in the South China Sea as being in its territory despite overlapping sovereignty claims.

Beijing has sought to downplay the diplomatic fallout, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman saying the maps were "not made to target any specific country."

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