The Philippines has protested China's depiction of its claims over the entire South China Sea in an image of a map printed on newly issued Chinese e-passports.
In a note sent to the Chinese Embassy in Manila on Thursday, Albert del Rosario, Philippine foreign secretary, said Manila "strongly protests'' Beijing's inclusion in the new passport of the image, which shows China's claimed maritime borders.
"The Philippines does not accept the validity of the nine-dash lines that amount to an excessive declaration of maritime space in violation of international law."
China's move means other claimant countries will have to stamp the microchip-equipped passports of thousands of Chinese tourists and businessmen containing the Chinese claims that they are disputing.
Stand-offs between Chinese vessels and the Philippine and Vietnamese navies in the South China Sea have become more common as China increases patrols in waters believed to hold vast reserves of oil and natural gas.
Chinese carrying the new passport would be violating Philippine national sovereignty, Raul Hernandez, Philippine foreign affairs spokesman, said.
Vietnam had also protested to the Chinese over the passport, Hernandez said.
Officials in Vietnam could not immediately be reached for comment.
"The passports' maps with their outlines of China are not targeting a specific country. China is willing to actively
communicate with the relevant countries and promote the healthy development of Sino-foreign personnel exchanges"
- Chinese foreign ministry
Malaysia and Brunei are also claimants in the dispute which overshadowed an Asian leaders' summit in Cambodia this week.
China is also embroiled in a territorial dispute with Japan.
China's foreign ministry said in a faxed response to questions that the new passports met international standards.
"The passports' maps with their outlines of China are not targeting a specific country. China is willing to actively communicate with the relevant countries and promote the healthy development of Sino-foreign personnel exchanges," it said.
It was not clear when China began printing the new passports.
The dispute spilled over into Southeast Asia's normally serene government summits this year, with China accused of
seeking to stall debate and divide the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) over the issue.
Philippine diplomats accused China at this week's summit in Phnom Penh of using its influence over host Cambodia to push a formal statement saying that ASEAN did not want to "internationalise" the dispute.
The Philippines, which sees its alliance with the US as a crucial check on China's claims at a time when the US is shifting its military focus back to Asia, protested to Cambodia and succeeded in having that clause
removed from the final statement.