China has generated significant international concern and criticism after unveiling a new map that asserts expansive territorial claims, including disputed regions with India and contested areas in the South China Sea.
The map also lays claim to waters near Indonesia’s Natuna Islands, as well as parts of the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded by seeking clarification regarding the accuracy and implications of the map.
Teuku Faizasyah, spokesperson for Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained that they are in the process of gathering information from the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing to validate the news.
“Information is currently being requested from the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing regarding the accuracy of the news,” stated the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Teuku Faizasyah, to BBC News Indonesia on Wednesday (30 Aug).
Faizasyah further stated that Indonesia is awaiting guidance from the embassy before determining its course of action, particularly whether to lodge formal protests similar to India’s response.
Exclusive economic zones (EEZ) hold significant importance in international maritime law. These zones grant nations the sovereign right to manage and exploit natural resources within their designated maritime area.
However, these zones have frequently become subjects of dispute, leading to tensions between countries. One such conflict emerged concerning the Natuna Islands, where China was accused of engaging in illegal fishing activities within Indonesia’s EEZ.
The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs then lodged a strong protest to Beijing at that time. On a separate occasion, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that China holds historic rights in the South China Sea.”
The map released by the Chinese government on Monday (28 Aug) also claims territories in dispute with India. India has lodged a ‘strong protest’ against these unilateral claims.
“Today, we have lodged a strong protest through diplomatic channels with China regarding what is called the 2023 China’s ‘standard map’ that claims Indian territory,” stated Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
In the map produced by the Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources, the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh and the disputed region of Aksai Chin are designated as Chinese territory.
Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, emphasized that China’s unilateral claims ‘only complicate border issue resolutions,’ adding, “We reject such claims as they lack any basis.” India’s Foreign Minister, Subrahmanyan Jaishankar, deemed China’s claims as illogical.
“Unreasonable claims on Indian territory do not make that territory China’s. In fact, in the past, they have released maps claiming territories that do not belong to China, but to other countries. This is their long-standing practice,” remarked Jaishankar in an interview with local news channel NDTV on Tuesday (29 Aug), as reported by Reuters.
India’s protests come shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke during the BRICS summit in South Africa.
India has frequently responded strongly to China’s attempts to claim its territories.
The root of the tension between the two neighboring countries lies in their 3,440-kilometer (2,100-mile) border along the Himalayas, an area with unclear boundaries due to the presence of rivers, lakes, and snow expanses that can shift. Military confrontations between both sides have frequently escalated tensions, with the most recent clash occurring in December along the border in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.
China claims the entire Arunachal Pradesh as its territory, referring to it as ‘South Tibet’ – a claim staunchly rejected by India. India claims the Aksai Chin highlands in the Himalayas, which China controls.
In April, India strongly reacted to China’s attempt to rename 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh, asserting that the state will always remain an ‘integral and inalienable part of India.’
The relationship between India and China has deteriorated since 2020 when their forces engaged in a deadly clash in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh – the first fatal confrontation between the two sides since 1975.”
Malaysia, too, has voiced its strong protest against China’s map, asserting that it encroaches upon Malaysia’s maritime territories.
The Malaysian government stressed the importance of resolving the matter through peaceful and rational dialogues in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982.
Malaysia underlined its commitment to working cooperatively to ensure the comprehensive and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the timely establishment of the Code of Conduct (COC).
The Malaysian government also strongly protested against China’s standard map. The Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the new map displays unilateral claims by Beijing that encroach upon Malaysia’s maritime territories in Sabah and Sarawak.
“The map notably shows China’s unilateral maritime claims that overlap with Malaysia’s maritime areas in Sabah and Sarawak based on the 1979 New Malaysia Map,” reads the statement from the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday (30 Aug).
Malaysia has also reiterated its stance on the South China Sea dispute, asserting consistent rejection of sovereignty claims, sovereign rights, and foreign jurisdiction over maritime features or maritime territories based on the 1979 New Malaysia Map.
The Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs further emphasized that Malaysia has never recognized China’s claims in the South China Sea as depicted in the 2023 China Standard Map.
Malaysia highlighted the complexity and sensitivity of this issue, necessitating peaceful and rational resolution through dialogue and negotiation in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982.
“Malaysia remains committed to working collaboratively to ensure comprehensive and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC),” stated the Ministry.
“Malaysia is also committed to an effective and substantive Code of Conduct (COC) negotiation process in the South China Sea and aims for an early COC resolution.”