National Geographic Society to fix mapping error

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The National Geographic Society (NGS) has announced detailed changes in naming conventions of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands following Vietnam's complaints about its depiction of the archipelago as belonging to China.

"Based on the best information and research available, the Map Policy Committee seeks to make independent judgments about future changes or clarifications on its maps, as well as to correct any errors," the Washington-based society said in a statement sent to Thanh Nien.

On small-scale world maps, it will use the conventional name of Paracel Islands and omit the possession label.

For larger-scale regional, continental, and sectional maps, it would use the conventional name - Paracel Islands and expand the possession qualifier to say: "Occupied by China in 1974, which calls them Xisha Qundao; claimed by Vietnam, which calls them Hoang Sa."

"These conventions will apply on future printings of our maps, and will be reflected online in short order," NGS said.

In either defiance or ignorance of history and international conventions that deem the islands either part of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam or "disputed" by both Vietnam and China, the NGS's maps had "China" printed in red letters below the "Paracel Is", which is written in parenthesis. At least one map also refers to the Paracel Islands by their Chinese name, "Xisha Qundao."

The issue has drawn the ire of Vietnamese citizens worldwide who sent their complaints to the society, the Vietnamese government and local media.

On March 12, the US Embassy in Vietnam said the map's error did not reflect the US government's point of view.

The Vietnamese government said on March 13 that the National Geographic Society was wrong to put the note "Paracel Is. China" to refer to Vietnam's Hoang Sa Archipelago on its maps and asked that the mistake be corrected.

"Vietnam has indisputable sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nguyen Phuong Nga asserted.

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