China’s new map outrages its neighbors

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HONG KONG — From the peaks of the Himalayan mountains to the shoals of the South China Sea, China lays claim to a vast territory — and a new national map produced by Beijing is the latest expansive conception of its borders to outrage its neighbors.

The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and India, all of which have territorial disputes with China, have objected to the 2023 version of the country’s “standard map,” released on Monday by the Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources.

The map includes a U-shaped line that reaffirms Beijing’s claims to sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea, a resource-rich and strategically important region through which trillions of dollars in trade flows each year. The line extends into the exclusive economic zones of a number of countries.

China’s new map could worsen clashes in the area, said Donald Rothwell, a professor of law at the Australian National University in Canberra who focuses on the law of the sea.

Though other countries may object to it, now that the map has been approved by the Chinese government and published, the Chinese navy and coast guard “will seek to assert Chinese sovereignty and jurisdiction based on the map,” he told NBC News on Friday.

‘Consistent and clear’

The Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam all rejected the map in strongly worded statements.

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

The ministry called on China to “act responsibly and abide by its obligations” under international law as well as a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague rejecting Beijing’s South China Sea claims. China, which did not participate in the tribunal’s proceedings, has never accepted the ruling.

Unlike most recent Chinese maps that encircle the South China Sea with a “nine-dash line,” the line on the new map has 10 dashes, although China has used the 10-dash line in the past.

The 10th dash appears to the east of Taiwan, a self-governing island democracy that Beijing claims as its territory. The Taiwan Foreign Ministry reiterated this week that Taiwan is not a part of China.

“No matter how the Chinese government twists its position on Taiwan’s sovereignty, it cannot change the objective fact of our country’s existence,” ministry spokesperson Jeff Liu said at a news briefing.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Beijing’s position on the South China Sea was “consistent and clear.”

“The competent authorities of China routinely publish standard maps of various types every year,” ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular news briefing in Beijing on Thursday.

“We hope parties concerned can view it in an objective and rational light,” he added.

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