Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia reject China’s latest South China Sea map

The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have rejected the map as groundless, marking China’s claim to sovereignty over the South China Sea.

Ted Aljibe | Afp | Good pictures

The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have rejected as baseless a map released by China that represents its claims to sovereignty, including the South China Sea, and which Beijing said Thursday should be seen as rational and objective.

China on Monday released a map of the famous U-shaped line covering about 90% of the disputed South China Sea, one of the world’s most contested waterways through which more than $3 trillion in trade takes place each year.

The Philippines called on China on Thursday to “act responsibly and abide by its obligations” under international law and declared that the tax has no legal basis under a 2016 arbitration ruling.

Malaysia said it had lodged a diplomatic protest over the map.

China says the line is based on its historical maps. It was not immediately clear whether the latest map represents any new claim to the territory.

China’s U-shaped line winds 1,500 km (932 miles) south of its Hainan island and cuts through the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

“This latest attempt to legitimize China’s sovereignty and jurisdiction over Philippine features and maritime zones has no basis under international law,” the Philippine Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Its Malaysian representative said in a statement that the new map does not have jurisdiction over Malaysia, which “views the South China Sea as a complex and sensitive matter.”

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The map differs from a narrower version of the so-called “nine-dash line” of the South China Sea that China submitted to the United Nations in 2009.

The latest map has a wider geographical area and a line with 10 lines that includes the democratically ruled Taiwan, similar to the 1948 map of China. China also released a 10-dash line map in 2013.

Asked about the latest map, Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesman Jeff Liu said Taiwan is “absolutely not part of the People’s Republic of China.”

“No matter how the Chinese government twists its position on Taiwan’s sovereignty, it cannot change the objective truth of our country’s existence,” he told a press conference.

China is currently in “National Map Awareness Promotion Week,” state broadcaster China Central Television said on Tuesday.

Asked why China released the latest map with 10 lines compared to nine, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Beijing was vague about its territory.

“China’s position on the South China Sea issue has always been clear. China’s competent authorities continue to update and publish various types of standard maps every year,” he told a regular briefing.

“We hope that the parties involved can look at this in an objective and rational manner.”

Late Thursday, Vietnam’s foreign ministry said China’s claims based on the map had no merit and violated Vietnamese and international laws.

Vietnam “firmly rejects any claims based on China’s demarcation lines in the East Sea,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Pham Tu Hong said in a statement, referring to the South China Sea.

Separately, Hong said Vietnamese authorities were trying to clear up allegations by Vietnamese fishermen that a Chinese vessel fired a water cannon at their fishing boat in the South China Sea earlier this week, injuring two of them.

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“Vietnam opposes the use of force against Vietnamese fishing boats operating normally at sea,” he said in a statement sent to Reuters.

India said on Tuesday it has expressed strong objections to China’s new map that lays claim to Indian territory, the latest irritant in testy ties between the Asian giants.

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