Vietnam objects to Chinese carrier's distribution of controversial map

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A map provided by Air China at a press conference in Ho Chi Minh City shows the controversial U-shaped line (inset) that violates Vietnam's sovereignty. Photo by Trung Hieu

Vietnamese aviation authorities have protested to Air China after the Chinese carrier distributed a map that showed Vietnamese territorial waters as China's.

The maps had the U-shaped nine-dash line that has been criticized by the United Nations, experts including Chinese, and countries in the region as a baseless ploy deployed by China to claim 80 percent of the East Sea, including Hoang Sa (Paracels) and Truong Sa (Spratlys) archipelagos.

The Vietnam Civil Aviation Authority said the distribution of the maps violated Vietnam's sovereignty, and ordered the airline to stop distributing them.

The maps were handed out to customers and guests along with some leaflets at the end of a press conference held Tuesday to announce the carrier's new service between Beijing and Houston, US, and an increase in frequency on current routes.

An Air China representative told Thanh Nien that the maps were an "unexpected incident."

"The conference was just about informing our agents and customers about the new service and more flights. We did not mean to spread out the U-shaped line. It was really a mistake."

The maps had been sent from China  just a day before the conference, and there was little time to check them, the representative said, adding the airline is contacting participants at the press conference to recall around 50 maps and destroying the rest.

Air China is the second biggest airline in that country after China Southern Airlines. It is flying between Ho Chi Minh City and Beijing.

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