Spratly Islands

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Spratly Islands,

group of about 100 low islands and coral reefs in the central South China Sea, intersecting busy shipping lanes. The whole group is claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, and parts are claimed by Malaysia and the Philippines. Brunei has established (1984) an exclusive economic zone encompassing Louisa Reef, but it has not claimed the islet. Various islands, valued primarily for the petroleum and gas potential of the surrounding waters and to a lesser degree for their fishing grounds, are occupied by their claimants. China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all have forces there. There have been many disputes and some fighting, most notably between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels in 1988 and 1992, and the Spratlys remain a source of tension among the claimants. A 2002 agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China called for all claimants to avoid activities that would heighten tensions over the islands, but China, Taiwan, and other claimants have nonetheless improved a number of the islands and reefs so that they can support airstrips and other facilities. A 2016 ruling under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in a case that was initiated by the Philippines against China rejected China's main basis for its claim to the islands, and judged that none of the islands met the criteria required to entitle any claimant to an exclusive economic zone.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Vietnam and China have competing claims to the Paracel and Spratley Islands, and regularly trade diplomatic barbs over sovereignty and fishing rights in the contested waters around the archipelagos.
China's strategy shows increasing consistency, but in a regional rather than a global framework: its aims lie not in the conquest and militarization of space in terms of global confrontation with the United States, but instead in acquiring instruments that can strengthen China's position on its regional chessboard in the event of a crisis in the area (Taiwan, the Spratley Islands, North Korea, among other concerns).
Since the late 1990s, China has markedly improved relations with the ASEAN countries, partly through the aforementioned APT process, and it has worked with these countries to smooth over the Spratley Islands conflict.