A new passport design incorporating a controversial map of China has met a range of responses from neighbouring countries over the last week. The map’s apparent purpose is to force neighbours to acknowledge China’s territorial claims when adding visas to the marked pages. To avoid this, Vietnam has taken to giving out visas on separate sheets of paper, while India is stamping in its own version of the map.
At a press conference on Monday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland presented the U.S. position: that accepting the passports for entry to the U.S. does not constitute endorsement of any territorial claims, and that the department expects “a conversation” on the issue with China.
MS. NULAND: Our position, as you know, on the South China Sea remains that these issues need to be negotiated among the stakeholders, among ASEAN and China. And a picture in a passport doesn’t change that. […]
QUESTION: Do you care what China has – what they print inside of their passports? Does this raise any concern at all with you, because is it simply their business and they can do – they can put whatever they want in their passport?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that we – and I looked into this a little bit and didn’t get a complete sort of brief on this – but my understanding is that we have certain basic international standards that have to be met in a passport in the way it’s presented […] for us to honor it. And stray maps that they include aren’t part of it, so —
QUESTION: Okay. And does that – that would go for any country?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: So then, I mean, if Mexico put a new passport with a map that had Texas and New Mexico on it – (laughter) – that wouldn’t be a problem?
MS. NULAND: Again, that’s a hypothetical we’re hoping not confront, Matt. (Laughter.) […] As a technical legal matter, that map doesn’t have any bearing on whether the passport is valid for U.S. visa issuance or for entry into the United States. There are a bunch of other issues —