China puts Himalayan claims on passport map

NEW DELHI Sat Nov 24, 2012 10:10am IST

1 of 3. Chinese soldiers guard the Nathu La mountain pass, between Tibet and Sikkim, July 6, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Desmond Boylan/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is stamping its own map on visas it issues to holders of new Chinese passports that contain a map depicting disputed territory within China's borders, the latest twist in tension in Asia over China's territorial claims.

China's new microchip-equipped passports contain a map that marks its claims over disputed waters and also show as its territory two Himalayan regions that India also claims.

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.

In response, India is issuing visas stamped with its own version of the borders, sources with knowledge of the dispute told Reuters.

"The correct map of India is stamped on to visas being issued on such passports," said one of the sources, who declined to be identified.

China's long-standing territorial disputes with Japan and Southeast Asian neighbours have grown heated in recent months.

On Thursday, the Philippines responded angrily to the new passports, saying Chinese carrying the document would be violating Philippine national sovereignty.

India and China fought a brief, high-altitude border war in 1962.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have held multiple rounds of talks to resolve their disputed Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh regions where they fought the war but have made little progress.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing that China has selected the maps as background on the inside pages of the passports issued by the Ministry of Public Security in May.

"The design is not targeting a specific country," Hua said. "We hope that the relevant countries take a rational and sensible attitude ... to avoid causing interference with normal Sino-foreign personnel exchanges."

(Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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