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China's new '10-dash line map' eats into Philippine territory

The Philippines has protested China's recent publication of a new "10-dash line" map that places sprawling offshore territories it claims within Beijing's "national boundaries," officials said Friday.

In a  confidential June 7, 2013 note verbale handed to the Chinese Embassy in Manila, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it "protests the reference to those dash lines as China's national boundaries."

The new Chinese map, which was first published last January by China's state mapping authority Sinomap Press, features 10 dash lines instead of nine dash lines to mark a huge swath of the South China Sea in a tongue-shaped encirclement as Chinese territory.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have been contesting China's massive claim of the territory.

Nine dashes in the new Chinese map are in the South China Sea and a tenth dash has been placed near Taiwan, purportedly to signify that territory's status as a Chinese province.

The Sinomap Press map showing China's new "10-dash line."

Reinforcing territorial claims

An analyst said the new map was another step by China to reinforce its territorial claims amid a series of territorial confrontations in recent years and the legal challenge posed by Manila against Beijing's claims before an international arbitration tribunal.

Professor Carl Thayer of the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy said, "The significance of China's latest map of the South China Sea lies not in its ten-dash lines but the naming of numerous features in the South China Sea that had not been listed on previous maps.

"China appear to be laying the ground for claiming sovereignty of every feature, such as reefs, shoals as well as rocks, islets and islands," Thayer told GMA News Online by e-mail.

"Asian claimants should issue official statements reiterating their claims to sovereignty over features in the South China Sea. They should also state unequivocally that naming a feature on a map so recently will not be taken as evidence of sovereignty by any international court of legal tribunal," Thayer said.

"Maps, in international law, are only pieces of information. The key to sovereignty is to demonstrate long-standing continuous occupation and administration over features in the South China Sea," he added.

Strong objection

The DFA stated in its protest that it "strongly objects to the indication that the nine-dash lines are China's national boundaries in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea."

The Philippine government has adopted the name West Philippine Sea to refer to parts of the South China Sea within its territory that are also being claimed by China.

Vietnam has also squared off with China in the contested region due to recent maritime confrontations. Many countries are threatened that the conflicts could suddenly turn violent, even by accident, and result in a major armed conflict in Asia.

China claims "indisputable sovereignty" over the entire waters, where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas. China's claims overlap with the offshore territories claimed by Asian neighbors surrounding the South China Sea.


The Philippines has sought international arbitration and asked a tribunal formed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), based in The Hague, to declare China's massive territorial claim as illegal and invalid.

The DFA reiterated its position in the note verbale that China's claim "has no basis under international law, particularly the 1982 UNCLOS.”

UNCLOS is a 1982 accord by 163 countries, including the Philippines and China, that aims to govern the use of offshore areas and sets territorial limits of coastal states.

"Like other littoral states in the South China Sea, China is a state party to the UNCLOS and as such its maritime areas are only those which are established by UNCLOS. Maritime claims of China based on the nine-dash line are contrary to UNCLOS and invalid," the document said.

China's nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea, it added, "encroaches on the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines" and in Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, site of a standoff last year between Chinese and Philippine ships.

The Philippines maintains that Scarborough lies within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as mandated by the UNCLOS.

The standoff temporarily ended in June last year when President Benigno S. Aquino III ordered the withdrawal of Philippine vessels in the area due to bad weather. China's ships stayed put and Chinese authorities set up barriers at the narrow mouth of the shoal to block non-Chinese fishermen, including Filipino fishermen, from gaining entry.

American officials have warned that it was in the US national interest that the disputes are resolved peacefully and freedom of navigation is guaranteed in the contested waters. — KBK, GMA News