Spratly Islands

From Wikipilipinas: The Hip 'n Free Philippine Encyclopedia
(Redirected from Kalayaan Islands)
Jump to: navigation, search
Map of the Spratly Islands.
Spratly Islands
Chinese name
Pinyin Nánshā Qúndǎo
Simplified Chinese 南沙群岛
Traditional Chinese 南沙群島.
literally Southern Sands Archipelago
Filipino/Tagalog name
Filipino alphabet Kapuluan ng Kalayaan
literally Freedom Archipelago
Malay name
Rumi Kepulauan Spratly
literally Spratly Islands
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabet Quần Đảo Trường Sa
Chu nom 群島長沙
literally Long Sands Archipelago

The Spratly Islands are a disputed group of approximately 100 reefs and islets in the South China Sea. Part of the South China Sea Islands, the Spratly Islands are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and gas and oil deposits, whose true extent is unknown and disputed. The People's Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China on Taiwan, and Vietnam each claim sovereignty over the entire group of islands, while Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines each claim various parts. Several of the nations involved have soldiers stationed in the Spratlys and control various installations on different islands and reefs. The Republic of China occupies one of the largest islands, Taiping (Itu Aba Island). In February 1995, the People's Republic of China occupied Mischief Reef, creating a political crisis in Southeast Asia, especially with the Philippines. In early 1999, these disputes escalated as the Philippines claimed that the PRC was building military installations on the reef.

Although the disputes have calmed to some degree, they still remain one of the most plausible scenarios for a major East Asia war involving the PRC or a smaller war between other claimants, a scenario depicted by Tom Clancy in his novel SSN.



Geography and economic development

  • Coordinates: 8°38′N, 111°55′ECoordinates: 8°38′N, 111°55′E (Spratly Island)
  • Area (land): less than 5 km²
    • note: includes 100 or so islets, coral reefs, and seamounts scattered over an area of nearly 410,000 km² of the central South China Sea
  • Coastline: 926 km
  • Political divisions:
    • People's Republic of China: Part of Hainan province;
    • Philippines: Part of Palawan province;
    • Vietnam: Part of Khanh Hoa Province;
    • Malaysia: Part of the state of Sabah;
    • Republic of China (Taiwan): Part of Kaohsiung municipality
  • Climate: tropical
  • Terrain: flat
  • Elevation extremes:
    • lowest point: South China Sea (0 m)
    • highest point: unnamed location on Southwest Cay (4 m)
  • Natural hazards: typhoons; serious maritime hazard because of numerous reefs and shoals

The islands contain no arable land and have no indigenous inhabitants, although twenty of the islands, including Itu Aba, the largest, are considered to be able to sustain human life.

Natural resources include fish, guano, undetermined oil and natural gas potential. Economic activity is limited to commercial fishing. The proximity to nearby oil- and gas-producing sedimentary basins suggests the potential for oil and gas deposits, but the region is largely unexplored, and there are no reliable estimates of potential reserves. Commercial exploitation has yet to be developed. The Spratly Islands have no ports or harbors but it has four airports. These islands are strategically located near several primary shipping lanes.


Geographic map of Spratleys. Click for more detailed image.

The first possible recorded human interaction with the Spratly Islands dates back as far as 3BC. This is based on the discovery that the people of Nanyue (modern-day southern China and northern Vietnam) and Old Champa kingdom fishermen (modern-day central Vietnam) had been visiting the Spratly Islands, together with other South China Sea Islands for fishing annually. During the Qing Dynasty of China, the islands were sporadically visited throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by mariners from different European powers (including either Richard Spratly or William Spratly, after whom the island group derives its most recognizable English name), but these nations showed little interest in the islands. Most of the English names for the islands, isles and reefs were from the Chinese fishermen. German boats surveyed in 1883, the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands but withdrew the survey eventually after receiving protests from the Nguyen Dynasty.

Ancient Chinese geographical maps record the Qianli Changsha (千里長沙) and 'Wanli Shitang (萬里石塘), which China today claims to be referring to these islands.

Ancient Vietnamese geographical maps record Bãi Cát Vàng (Golden Sandbanks, as claimed today by Vietnam referring to both Paracel and Spratly Islands) which lies near the Coast of the central Vietnam as early as the 17th century. In Phủ Biên Tạp Lục (Frontier Chronicles) by the scholar Le Quy Don, Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa were defined as belonging to Quảng Ngãi District. He described it as where sea products and shipwrecked cargoes were available to be collected. Vietnamese text written in the 17th century referenced government-sponsored economic activities during the Le Dynasty, 200 years earlier. The Vietnamese government conducted several geographical surveys of the islands in the 18th century.

In the 1930s, France claimed the Spratly and Paracel Islands on behalf of its then-colony Vietnam. It occupied a number of the Spratly Islands, including Itu Aba, and built weather stations on two, and administered them as part of French Indochina. This occupation was protested by the Chinese Nationalist government because France admitted that they found Chinese fishermen there when the French war ships visited the nine islands. The Chinese fishermen tore the French flag after the ships left the islands. Following that, Japan occupied some of the islands during World War II, and used the islands as a submarine base for the occupation of Southeast Asia. During the occupation, these islands were called Shinnan Shoto (新南諸島), literally the New Southern Islands, and put under the governance of Taiwan together with the Paracel Islands (西沙群岛). Following the defeat of Japan, the Kuomintang (nationalist) claimed the whole Spratly Islands (including Itu Aba) and accepted the Japanese surrender on the islands. Japan renounced all claims to the islands in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty. In the treaty with Republic of China, Japan again renounced all claims to the islands together with the Paracels, Pratas & other islands captured from China. The Kuomintang withdrew from the Spratly and Paracel Islands when they were defeated by the forces of the opposing Communist Party of China in 1949.

When the French left Vietnam, the naval units of the Vietnamese government took over in Truong Sa.

Political dispute

Spratly Islands' location relative to the claimants.

The second indication that the Spratly Islands were more than merely a hazard to shipping was in 1968 when oil was discovered in the region. The PRC’s Geology and Mineral Resources Ministry has estimated that the Spratly area holds oil and natural gas reserves of 17.7 billion tons (1.60 × 1010 kg), as compared to the 13 billion tons (1.17 × 1010 kg) held by Kuwait, placing it as the fourth largest reserve bed in the world. Naturally, these large reserves assisted in intensifying the situation and propelled the territorial claims of the neighboring countries. On 11 March 1976, the first major Philippine oil discovery occurred off the coast of Palawan, within the Spratly Islands territory, and these oil fields now account for fifteen percent of all petroleum consumed in the Philippines.

The claimants to sovereignty have not awarded offshore concessions in the islands for fear of provoking an immediate clash. Foreign companies have not made any commitments to explore the area until the territorial dispute is settled or the claimants come to terms on joint development.

An additional motive is the region's role as one of the world's most productive areas for commercial fishing. In 1988, for example, the South China Sea accounted for eight percent of the total world catch, a figure which has certainly risen. The PRC has predicted that the South China Sea holds combined fishing and oil and gas resources worth one trillion dollars. There have already been numerous clashes between the Philippines and other nations — particularly the PRC — over foreign fishing vessels in its EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and the media regularly report the arrest of Chinese fishermen.

The region is also one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. During the 1980s, at least two hundred and seventy ships passed through the Spratly Islands region each day, and currently more than half of the world’s supertanker traffic, by tonnage, passes through the region’s waters every year. Tanker traffic through the South China Sea is over three times greater than through the Suez Canal and five times more than through the Panama Canal; twenty five percent of the world’s crude oil passes through the South China Sea.

There have been suggestions that the PRC has annexed and occupied islands not for resource exploitation but rather for surveillance. For example, Mischief Reef would be an ideal site from which to observe United States naval vessels traveling through western Philippine waters. The PRC’s occupation of the islands may be also be aimed at opposing the ROC rather than the Philippines as the Spratlys lie across water essential to the ROC. It could also simply be part of the PRC's efforts to announce its solidifying regional hegemony.

There have been occasional naval clashes over the Spratly Islands. In 1974, after South Vietnam had allowed Western oil companies to explore the Paracel Islands, the PRC reacted by seizing control of them following a short naval battle; in 1988, China similarly annexed another six islets in a region otherwise controlled by Vietnam. An incident involving a civilian vessel occurred on April 101983, when a German yacht was fired on and sunk. No responsibility has yet been indicated for this action.

In response to growing concerns by coastal states regarding encroachments by foreign vessels on their natural resources, the United Nations convened the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982 to determine the issue of international sea boundaries. In response to these concerns, it was resolved that a coastal state could claim two hundred nautical miles of jurisdiction beyond its land boundaries. However UNCLOS failed to address the issue of how to adjudicate on overlapping claims and so the future of the islands remains clouded.

In 1984, Brunei established an exclusive fishing zone encompassing Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands, but has not publicly claimed the island. Then, in 1988, the PRC and Vietnam again clashed at sea over possession of Johnson Reef in the Spratlys. Chinese gunboats sank Vietnamese transport ships supporting a landing party of Vietnamese soldiers. The two countries normalized relations in 1991 and President Jiang Zemin subsequently made two trips to Vietnam, but the two nations remain at loggerheads over the Spratlys' future.

In 1992, the PRC and Vietnam granted oil exploration contracts to U.S. oil companies that covered overlapping areas in the Spratlys; and in May 1992, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Crestone Energy (a U.S. company based in Denver, Colorado) signed a cooperation contract for the joint exploration of the Wan'an Bei-21 block, a 25,155 km² section of the southwestern South China Sea that includes Spratly Island areas. CNOOC was to provide seismic and other data regarding the seabed in the contract area, while Crestone agreed to cover all costs and conduct follow-up seismic surveys and drilling in the area. The contract was extended in 1999 after Crestone failed to complete the exploration. Part of the Crestone's contract covered Vietnam’s blocks 133 and 134, where PetroVietnam and ConocoPhillips Vietnam Exploration & Production, a unit of ConocoPhillips, agreed to evaluate prospects in April 1992. This led to a confrontation between China and Vietnam, with each demanding that the other cancel its contract.

Further escalation occurred in early 1995 when the Philippines discovered a primitive PRC military structure on Mischief Reef, one hundred and thirty nautical miles off the coast of Palawan. This prompted the Philippines government to issue a formal protest over the PRC occupation of the reef and the Philippine navy to arrest sixty-two Chinese fishermen at Half Moon Shoal, eighty kilometers from Palawan. A week later, following confirmation from surveillance pictures that the structures were of military design, then Philippine President Fidel Ramos ordered military forces in the region strengthened. The PRC had claimed that the structures were shelters for fishermen.

Following this dispute an ASEAN-brokered agreement was reached between the PRC and ASEAN member nations whereby a nation would inform the others of any military movement within the disputed territory and that there would be no further construction. The agreement was promptly violated by the PRC and Malaysia. Claiming storm damage, seven PRC naval vessels entered the area to repair "fishing shelters" in Panganiban Reef. Malaysia erected a structure on Investigator Shoal and landed at Rizal Reef, both places situated within the Philippines EEZ. In response the Philippines lodged formal protests, demanded the removal of the structures, increased naval patrols in Kalayaan and issued invitations to American politicians to inspect the PRC bases by plane.

By 1998, as the PRC continued its annexation of the islands, placing sovereignty markers or buoys on First and Second Thomas Shoals, Pennsylvania Shoal, Half Moon Shoal and the Sabina and Jackson atolls, the Spratly Islands area was listed as one of eight flashpoints for conflict in the world. By late 1998, PRC bases had surrounded the Philippines' outposts. A British Royal Navy Commander analyzed pictures of the Chinese structures and announced that PRC "appeared to be preparing for war". The relationship between Manila and Beijing had deteriorated to the point where war seemed imminent.

In the early 21st century, as part of foreign policy initiatives known as the "new security concept" and "China's peaceful rise", the PRC became much less confrontational about the Spratly Islands. The PRC recently held talks with ASEAN countries aimed at realizing a proposal for a free trade area between the ten countries involved. The PRC and ASEAN also have been engaged in talks to create a code of conduct aimed at easing tensions in the disputed islands. On 5 March 2002, an agreement was reached, setting forth the desire of the claimant nations to resolve the problem of sovereignty "without further use of force". In November 2002, a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea was signed, easing tensions but falling short of a legally-binding code of conduct.

People's Republic of China claims on the Spratly Islands

The People's Republic of China (PRC) bases its claim to the islands on historical grounds. They state that the Spratly Islands have been an integral part of China for nearly two thousand years and point to ancient manuscripts claiming to refer to the Spratly Islands and remains of Chinese pottery and coins on the islands as proof. Chinese fishermen were also found on these islands by the French when it made its claims in the 1930s. Using this argument, the PRC states that the Philippines have taken 410,000 square kilometers of its traditional maritime boundary, having taken advantage of the PRC's poor condition during its exile from international affairs, but some analysts question these claims.

Many official records and maps dating back to Han Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty, Qing Dynasty and Republic of China did include the Spratly Islands in Chinese territory. (See the Chinese version of this page for document details and dates). However, these same maps also claim the northern Philippine archipelago, Palawan, Vietnam, Korea, Malaysia among others. In addition, China claimed these areas more as protectorates rather than as a true part of China since they still had their own kingdoms and governments.

Philippine claims on the Spratly Islands

While the Philippine claim to the Spratly Islands was first expressed in the United Nations General Assembly in 1946, Philippine involvement in the Spratly's did not begin in earnest until 1956, when on 15 May Philippine citizen Tomas Cloma proclaimed the founding of a new state, Kalayaan (Freedom Land). Cloma’s Kalayaan encompassed fifty three features spread throughout the eastern South China Sea, including Spratly Island proper, Itu Aba, Pag-asa and Nam Yit Islands, as well as West York Island, North Danger Reef, Mariveles Reef and Investigator Shoal. Cloma then established a protectorate in July 1956 with Pag-asa as its capital and Cloma as “Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Kalayaan State”. This action, although not officially endorsed by the Philippine government, was considered by other claimant nations as an act of aggression by the Philippines and international reaction was swift. Taiwan, the PRC, South Vietnam, France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands lodged official protests (the Netherlands on the premise that it considered the Spratly Islands part of Dutch New Guinea) and Taiwan sent a naval task force to occupy the islands and establish a base on Itu Aba, which it retains to the present day.

Tomas Cloma and the Philippines continued to state their claims over the islands; in October 1956 Cloma traveled to New York to plead his case before the United Nations and the Philippines had troops posted on three islands by 1968 on the premise of protecting Kalayaan citizens. In early 1971 the Philippines sent a diplomatic note on behalf of Cloma to Taipei demanding the ROC's withdrawal from Itu Aba and on 10 July in the same year Ferdinand Marcos announced the annexation of the 53 island group known as Kalayaan, although since neither Cloma or Marcos specified which fifty three features constituted Kalayaan, the Philippines began to claim as many features as possible. In April of 1972 Kalayaan was officially incorporated into Palawan province and was administered as a single “poblacion” (township), with Tomas Cloma as the town council Chairman and by 1992, there were twelve registered voters on Kalayaan. The Philippines also reportedly attempted to land troops on Itu Aba in 1977 to occupy the island but were repelled by ROC troops stationed on the island. There were no reports of casualties from the conflict. In 2005, a cellular phone base station was erected by the Philippines' Smart Communications on Pag-asa Island.

The Philippines base their claims of sovereignty over the Spratly's on the issues of res nullius and geography. The Philippines contend Kalayaan was res nullius as there was no effective sovereignty over the islands until the 1930s when France and then Japan acquired the islands. When Japan renounced their sovereignty over the islands in the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, there was a relinquishment of the right to the islands without any special beneficiary. Therefore, argue the Philippines, the islands became res nullius and available for annexation. Philippine businessman Tomas Cloma did exactly that in 1956 and while the Philippines never officially supported Cloma’s claim, upon transference of the islands’ sovereignty from Cloma to the Philippines, the Philippines used the same sovereignty argument as Cloma did. The Philippine claim to Kalayaan on geographical bases can be summarized using the assertion that Kalayaan is distinct from other island groups in the South China Sea because:

It is a generally accepted practice in oceanography to refer to a chain of islands through the name of the biggest island in the group or through the use of a collective name. Note that Spratly (island) has an area of only 13 hectares compared to the 22 hectare area of the Pag-asa Island. Distance-wise, Spratly Island is some 210nm off Pag-asa Islands. This further stresses the argument that they are not part of the same island chain. The Paracels being much further (34.5nm northwest of Pag-asa Island) is definitely a different group of islands

A second argument used by the Philippines regarding their geographical claim over the Spratly’s is that all the islands claimed by the Philippines lie within their archipelagic baselines, the only claimant who can make such a statement. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stated that a coastal state could claim two hundred nautical miles of jurisdiction beyond its land boundaries. It is perhaps telling that while the Philippines is a signatory to UNCLOS, the PRC and Vietnam are not. The Philippines also argue, under Law of the Sea provisions, that the PRC can not extend its baseline claims to the Spratly’s because the PRC is not an archipelagic state. Whether this argument (or any other used by the Philippines) would hold up in court is debatable but possibly moot, as the PRC and Vietnam seem unwilling to legally substantiate their claims and have rejected Philippine challenges to take the dispute to the World Maritime Tribunal in Hamburg.

Vietnamese claims on the Spratly Islands

The Vietnamese also claims the island on historical grounds. Ancient Vietnamese geographical maps record Bải Cát Vàng (Golden Sandbanks, referring to Spratly Islands) as Vietnamese territory as early as the 17th century. In Phủ Biên Tập Lục by the scholar Lê Quý Đôn, Hoàng Sa, and Trường Sa were defined as belonging to Quảng Ngải District. In Đại Nam Thống Nhất Toàn Đồ, an atlas of Vietnam completed in 1838, Trường Sa was shown to be Vietnam's territory. Vietnam had conducted many geographical and resource surveys of the islands. The results of these surveys have been recorded in Vietnamese literature and history published since the 17th century. After the treaty signed with the Nguyen Dynasty, France represented Vietnam in international affairs and had exercised sovereignty.

On 7 July 1951, Tran Van Huu, head of the Bao Dai Government's delegation to the San Francisco Conference on the peace treaty with Japan declared that the archipelago's of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa had been part of Vietnamese territory. This declaration met with no challenge from the 51 representatives at the conference. After the French left, the Vietnam government had exercised sovereignty over the islands.

Vietnam currently occupies 21 islands. They are organized as a district of Khanh Hoa Province.

Tabular listing of features showing country possessions

Occupied Features
Int'l Name Local Names Description Area (ha.)
Flat Island Patag (P) A low, flat, sandy cay, 240 by 90 m, subject to erosion. Has a nearby reef which is above water at high tide. With large guano deposits. No vegetation. Four soldiers and two attack dogs are guarding this and Nanshan islands. They are featured in GMA 7's i-Witness documentary entitled Bantay ng Kalayaan (Guardian of Freedomland). 0.57
费信岛 Feixin Dao (C)
Đảo Bình Nguyên (V)
Lankiam Cay Panata (P) Sand, surrounded by three reefs which are above water at high tide. Several soldiers stationed. 0.44
杨信沙洲 Yangxin Shazhou (C)
Cồn San Hô Lan Can (V)
Loaita Island Kota (P) Covered with mangrove bushes, above which rose coconut palms and other small trees. Several soldiers stationed. 6.45
南钥岛 Nanyue Dao (C)
Đảo Loại Ta (V)
Nanshan Island Lawak (P) Covered with coconut trees, bushes and grass. 580 m long, on the edge of a submerged reef. Several soldiers stationed. Has a small airstrip. Four soldiers and two attack dogs are guarding this and Flat islands. They are featured in GMA 7's i-Witness documentary entitled Bantay ng Kalayaan (Guardian of Freedonland). 7.93
马欢岛 Mahuan Dao (C)
Đảo Vĩnh Viễn (V)
Northeast Cay Parola (P) The fifth largest Spratly island. Covered with grass and thick trees. Much of ringing reef is above water at high tide. Supported a beacon in 1984. Has Guano deposits. Several soldiers stationed. Has an airstrip. Shira Islet lies 320 m from the south of Northeast Cay. Part of North Danger Reef. 12.7
北子岛 Beizi Dao (C)
Đảo Song Tử Đông (V)
Thitu Island Pagasa (P) The second largest Spratly island. Serves as the poblacion for the Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan, Phils. It is covered with trees and has a variety of fauna. It is a home to some 300+ civilians (including children) and over forty soldiers. The Civilian population was introduced to strengthen the Filipino claim to the islands. Other islands are expected to be populated before 2010. Population are regulated to protect the islands' flora and fauna and so that not to make any tension with other countries. It has 1.4 km airstrip, a marina, water filtering plant, power generator and a commercial communications tower (by Smart Communications). There are two commercial flights available weekly. The Philippines' Department of Tourism is making improvements to the island to make it profitable. 37.2
中业岛 Zhongye Dao (C)
Đảo Thị Tứ (V)
West York Island Likas (P) The third largest Spratly island. Covered with bushes, mangroves and coconut palms. Has an observation post. Several soldiers stationed. 18.6
西月岛 Xiyue Dao (C)
Đảo Bến Lạc, Đảo Dừa (V)
Commodore Reef Rizal (P) A sand "cay", 0.5 m high, surrounded by two lagoons. Parts of reef above water at high tide. Some structures. Several soldiers stationed. 0
司令礁 Siling Jiao (C)
Đá Công Đo (V)
Terumbu Laksamana (M)
Irving Reef Balagtas (P) Naturally above water only at low tide. A very small cay lies at northern end. Some structures. Several soldiers stationed. 0
火艾礁 Huo'ai Jiao (C)
Đảo Cá Nhám (V)
Shira Islet See Northeast Cay ??
Total 7 islands, 2 reefs 83.89
Int'l Name Local Names Description Area (ha.)
Itu Aba Island Ligaw (P) The largest Spratly island. Covered w/shrubs, coconut and mangroves. 600 soldiers stationed, lighthouse, radio and weather stations, concrete landing jetty and two wells at SW end. Guano deposits, fringing reef. Hainan fishermen used to visit annually. In 8/93, plans were announced for a 2 km-long airstrip and fishing port. Pineapple is cultivated here once. Part of Tizard Banks. 46
太平岛 Taiping Dao (C)
Đảo Ba Bình (V)
Ban Than Jiao Ban Than Jiao (C) Small drying reef halfway between Taiwan-occupied Itu Aba and Vietnam-occupied Sand Cay. Has a structure and is garrisoned by some soldiers. Part of Tizard Banks. 0
Bãi Bàn Than (V)
Total 1 island, 1 reef 46
Int'l Name Local Names Description Area (ha.)
Amboyna Cay Kalantiyaw (P) Two parts: East part consists of sand and coral, west part is covered with guano. Has fringing reef. An obelisk, about 2.7 m high, stands on the SW corner. Little vegetation. Lighthouse operational since May 1995. Heavily fortified. 1.6
安波沙洲 Anbo Shazhou (C)
Đảo An Bang (V)
Pulau Amboyna Kecil (M)
Namyit Island Binago (P) Covered with small trees, bushes and grass. Has a fringing reef and is inhabited by sea birds. The island is inhabited permanently by an unknown number of Vietnamese soldiers and in the deep waters fronting the south side it is said that a submarine base is situated. Part of Tizard Banks. 5.3
鸿庥岛 Hongxiu Dao (C)
Đảo Nam Yết (V)
Sand Cay Bailan (P) Covered with trees and bushes. Fringing reef partly above water at low tide. Part of Tizard Banks. 7
敦谦沙洲 Dunqian Shazhou (C)
Đảo /Đá Sơn Ca (V)
Sin Cowe Island Rurok (P) Has fringing reef which is above water at low tide. Part of Union Banks. ??
景宏岛 Jinghong Dao (C)
Đảo Sinh Tồn (V)
Sin Cowe East Island Đảo Sinh Tồn Đông (V) Description is probably the same with Sin Cowe Island since different sources refer to these two cays collectively. Part of Union Banks. ??
Southwest Cay Pugad (P) Only 1.75 miles from Northeast Cay. Was a breeding place for birds and was covered with trees and guano. Export of guano was once carried out "on a considerable scale." Fringing reef partly above water at high tide. Vietnam erected its first lighthouse in the Spratlys here in October 1993, and built an airstrip as well. Has a three-story bulding, garrisoned by soldiers. Philippine military was in control of this island before mid 1970's. Vietnamese forces invaded the island when Filipino soldiers guarding the island attended the birthday party of their commanding officer based in the nearby Northeast Cay. Part of North Danger Reef. ??
南子岛 Nanzi Dao (C)
Đảo Song Tử Tây (V)
Spratly Island (proper) Lagos (P) 2.5 m high, flat. Covered with bushes, grass, birds and guano. 5.5 m-high obelisk at southern tip. Has landing strip, and a fishing port. Fringing reef is above water at low tide. Some structures with soldiers stationed. 13
南威岛 Nanwei Dao (C)
Đảo Trường Sa (V)
Alison Reef 六门礁 Liumen Jiao (C) Naturally above water only at low tide. Encloses a lagoon. 0
Bãi Tốc Tan (V)
Barque Canada Reef Mascado (P) Coral. Highest rocks are 4.5 m high, at SW end. Much of reef is above water at high tide. Some sandy patches. 18 miles long. Its military structures were recently upgraded. 0
柏礁 Bai Jiao (C)
Bãi Thuyền Chài (V)
Terumbu Perahu (M)
Bombay Castle See Rifleman Bank 0
Central London Reef 中礁 Zhong Jiao (C) SW part is a sandbank which barely submerges at high tide. The rest is coral reef, awash, surrounding a lagoon. Part of London Reefs. 0
Đảo Trường Sa Đông (V)
Collins Reef/ Johnson North Reef 鬼喊礁 Guihan Jiao (C) Connected to Johnson South Reef. A "coral dune" is located at the southeast corner, above the high tide line. Part of Union Banks. 0
Đá Cô Lin (V)
Cornwallis South Reef 南华礁 Nanhua Jiao (C) Naturally above water only at low tide. Encloses a lagoon. 0
Đá Núi Le (V)
Great Discovery Reef Paredes (P) Several rocks are above water at high tide. Most of reef is above water at low tide. Has lagoon. 0
大现礁 Daxian Dao (C)
Đá Lớn (V)
East London Reef Silangan (P) Rocks up to 1 m high. Encloses a lagoon. Part of London Reefs. 0
东礁 Dong Jiao (C)
Đá Đông (V)
Grainger Bank 李准滩 Lizhun Tan (C) Shallowest natural depth is either 9 m or 11 m. 0
Bãi Quế Đường (V)
Higgens Reef 屈原礁 Quyuan Jiao (C) Only above water at low tide. Part of Union Banks. 0
Đá Hi Ghen, Đá Hi Gen (V)
Johnson North Reef See Collins Reef 0
Ladd Reef 日积礁 Riji Jiao (C) Naturally above water at low tide. Has coral lagoon. 0
Đá Lát (V)
Lan(d)sdowne Reef 琼礁 Qiong Jiao (C) Sand dune, with fringing reef. Part of Union Banks. 0
Đá Len Đao (V)
Pearson Reef Hizon (P) Two sand "cays", 2 m and 1 m high, lie on the edges of a lagoon. Parts of the surrounding reef are above water at high tide. 0
毕生礁 Bisheng Jiao (C)
Đảo Phan Vinh (V)
Petley Reef 舶兰礁 Bolan Jiao (C) naturally above water only at low tide, some small rocks might stand above high water. Part of Tizard Banks. 0
Đá Núi Thị (V)
Pigeon Reef/ Tennent Reef 无乜礁 Wumie Jiao (C) Numerous rocks are naturally above the high tide line. Encloses a lagoon. 0
Đá Tiên Nữ (V)
Prince Consort Bank 西卫滩 Xiwei Tan (C) Shallowest natural depth is 9 m. 0
Bãi Phúc Nguyên (V)
Rifleman Bank (containing Bombay Castle) 南薇滩 Nanwei Tan (C) Shallowest natural depth is 3 m, called as Bombay Castle. Sand and coral. 0
Bãi Vũng Mây (V)
South Reef 奈罗礁 Nailuo Jiao (C) A tiny cay appears atop this reef on the most detailed map available. On the southwest end of North Danger Reef. Fringing reef is above water at low tide. Part of North Danger Reef. 0
Đá Nam (V)
Tennent Reef See Pigeon Reef 0
Vanguard Bank 万安滩 Wan'an Tan (C) Shallowest natural depth is 16 m. Vietnam has run two "economic technological service stations" in this area since July 1994. 0
Bãi Tư Chính (V)
West London Reef 西礁 Xi Jiao (C) East part is sand "cay", 0.6 m high. West part is coral reef which is above water only at low tide. Between them is a lagoon . Vietnam erected a lighthouse here in May or June of 1994. Part of London Reefs. 0
Đá Tây (V)
Total 7 islands, 16 reefs, 3 banks <40
Int'l Name Local Names Description Area (ha.)
Ardesier Reef 安渡滩 Andu Tan (C) Naturally above water only at low tide. Encloses a lagoon. Has a few sandy patches. Malaysia presently has 20 soldiers stationed here. 0
Bãi Kiêu Ngựa (V)
Terumbu Ubi (M)
Dallas Reef 光星礁 Guangxing Jiao (C) Naturally above water only at low tide. Encloses a lagoon. Several soldiers stationed. Malaysia is also using this reef for tourism. 0
Terumbu Laya (M)
Erica Reef Boji Jiao (C) Above water only at low tide. Some isolated rocks on the eastern edge stand above high water. 0
Terumbu Siput (M)
Investigator Shoal Yuya Jiao (C) Above water only at low tide. Some large rocks at the western end are visible at high water. Encloses a lagoon. 0
Bãi Thám Hiểm (V)
Terumbu Peninjau (M)
Louisa Reef 南通礁 Nantong Jiao (C) Rocks 1 m high. Malaysia operates a lighthouse (beacon/"accommodation module") here. 0
Terumbu Semarang/ Barat Kecil (M)
Mariveles Reef Mariveles (P) A sand cay, 1.5-2 m high, surrounded by two lagoons, parts of which are above water at high tide. Several soldiers stationed. 0
南海礁 Nanhai Jiao (C)
Bãi /Đá Kỳ Vân (V)
Terumbu Mantanani (M)
Swallow Reef 弹丸礁 Danwan Jiao (C) Treeless cay and rocks up to 3 m high surround a lagoon. Malaysia has drawn territorial seas around this and Amboyna Cay. Some 70 plus soldiers stationed here maintain a beacon. Has a fishing port and a 15-room resort, including a 1.5 km airstrip. Soil and trees have been planted on what was "four miles of treeless beaches and coral reefs" 6.2
Đá Hoa Lau (V)
Terumbu Layang Layang (M)
Total 1 manmade island, 5 reefs, 1 shoal 6.2
Int'l Name Local Names Description Area (ha.)
Cuarteron Reef 华阳礁 Huayang Jiao (C) Coral rocks only. Highest are 1.5 m high, on the north. Part of London Reefs. 0
Bãi /Đá Châu Viên (V)
Fiery Cross Reef/ Northwest Investigator Reef Kagilingan (P) Rocks up to 1 m high. All below at high tide, but has guano deposits. PRC built a navy harbor by blasting, piling up and cementing coral, but says no soldiers stationed here. 8,080 square meters, 14 miles long, with airstrip. "Marine observation station" built in 1988; coconut, fir, and banyan trees planted as well. Actually 3 reefs. 0
永暑礁 Yongshu Jiao (C)
Đá Chữ Thập (V)
Gaven Reefs 南薰礁 Nanxun Jiao (Northern reef)/ Xinan or Duolu Jiao (S. reef) (C) A sand dune, 2 m high. Has fringing reef plus a reef 2 miles to the south, both covered at high tide. Now all cement and a raised metal frame, with two-story buildings placed on top. Southern reef was occuped by PRC on 7/4/92. Part of Tizard Banks. 0
Đá Ga Ven (V)
Johnson South Reef Mabini (P) Contiguous with Collins Reef. Naturally above water only at low tide, but [9] says many rocks above water at high tide. Site of 1988 PRC/Vietnam clash. Part of Union Banks. 0
赤瓜礁 Chigua Jiao (C)
Đá Gạc Ma (V)
Kennan Reef 西门礁 Ximen Jiao (C) Naturally above water at least at low tide. Part of Union Banks. 0
Đá Ken Nan (V)
Mischief Reef Panganiban (P) Some rocks above water at low tide. Has a lagoon. In Feb. 1995, PRC had built a wooden complex on stilts here for fishermen. In 1999, Philippines protested over this structures claiming that it is actually a military outpost. Mischief Reef is just 130 miles to Palawan and Philippines said that this action of China posts danger to Philippine security and national defense. 0
美济礁 Meiji Jiao (C)
Đá Vành Khăn (V)
Northwest Investigator Reef See Fiery Cross Reef 0
Subi Reef 渚碧礁 Zhubi Dao (C) Naturally above water only at low tide. Surrounds a lagoon. PRC has constructed 3-story buildings, wharfs, and a helipad here. 0
Đá Su Bi (V)
Whitson Reef 牛轭礁 Niu'e Jiao (C) Some rocks naturally above water at high tide. Part of Union Banks. 0
Đá Ba Đầu (V)
Total 8 reefs 0
Unoccupied Features
Not Occupied But Largely Controlled by the Philippines
The reefs, shoals, etc. to the east of the 116 longitude was tightly guarded by the Philippine Navy and Air Force. Though not occupied, Philippines undeniably has control over these features which are less 100 miles from the Palawan west coast (except for Scarborough Shoal which is 100 miles from Zambales). Filipino fishermen, who closely cooperate with the Philippine Navy, swarm this region but quite many Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen were also tolerated to fish here provided that they comply with the Philippine laws. Many Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen are annually arrested by the Philippine Navy in this region for using illegal fishing methods and catching of endangered sea species. Philippine military presence in this region was intensified after the 1995 Mischief Reef Incident. Philippine Air Force has been active in striking even the markers set up by other countries in this region.
Int'l Name Local Names Description Area (ha.)
Bombay Shoal 蓬勃暗沙 Pengbo Ansha (C) Several rocks are exposed at low tide. Surrounds a lagoon. 0
Boxall Reef Niuchelun Jiao (C) Above water only at low tide. 0
Brown Reef 0
Carnadic Shoal 0
Glasgow Bank 0
Half Moon Shoal Banyue Jiao (C) Several rocks on the eastern side rise one to two feet above high tide. Encloses a lagoon. 0
Bãi Trăng Khuyết (V)
Hardy Reef Banlu Jiao (C) Naturally above water only at low tide. Surrounds a narrow strip of sand. 0
Hopkins Reef 0
Investigator Northeast Shoal 0
Iroquois Reef Houteng Jiao (C) Above water only at low tide. 0
Leslie Bank 0
Lord Auckland Shoal 0
Pensylvania North Reef 0
Pensylvania South Reef 0
Reed Tablemount (including Nares Bank and Marie Louise Bank) Lile Tan (C) Shallowest natural depth is 9 m. About 2500 sq miles in area. Some sources say this was already occupied by the Philippines since 1971. 0
Bãi Cỏ Rồng (V)
Royal Captain Shoal Jiangzhang Ansha (C) A few rocks are above water at low tide. Surrounds a lagoon. 0
Sandy Shoal 0
Scarborough Shoal Huang Yen Tao (C) Not actually part of Spratly Island group. It is farther north, about 100 miles from Palauig, Zambales, Phils. Several rocks up to 3 m high. Much of the reef is just below water at high tide. Encloses a lagoon. Near the mouth of the lagoon are the ruins of an iron tower, 8.3 m high. Presently occupied by the Philippine Navy, fishing is tolerated in the area. Many Chinese fishermen were already arrested here by the Philippine Navy for using illegal fishing methods and catching of endangered sea species. Claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan and China. 0
Seahorse Shoal 0
Templar Bank 0
With Uncertain Possession
Some sources say that these features were occupied by Vietnam or China, but most including most recent, say it is not. Some features listed here might not really be existing and might have just been confused with other existing features.
Int'l Name Local Names Description Area (ha.)
Discovery Small Reef Xiaoxian Jiao (C) Above water only at low tide. Some sources say that this is possessed by Vietnam. 0
Đá Nhỏ (V)
Eldad Reef Beting Burgai (P) Only a few large rocks are naturally above water at high tide. Part of Tizard Banks. Some sources say that this is possessed by China and some say by Vietnam. 0
Anda Jiao (C)
Hughes Reef Dongmen Jiao (C) Above water only at low tide. Part of Union Banks. Some sources say that this is possessed by China. 0
Loaita Cay Nanyao Shazhou (C) A sand cay, with fringing reef naturally above water at high tide. Not to be confused with Loaita Island. Some sources say that this is possessed by China. ??
Bãi Loại Ta (V)
Loaita Nan/ Loaita Southwest Reef Shuanghuang Shazhou (C) Never above water. Some sources say that this is possessed by China. 0
Bãi Loại Ta Nam (V)
North Reef Dongbei Jiao (C) At NE end of North Danger Reef. Naturally above water only at low tide. Part of North Danger Reef. Some sources say that this is possessed by China and some say by Vietnam. 0
Owen Shoal Aoyuan Ansha (C) Shallowest natural depth is 6 m. Some sources say that this is possessed by Vietnam. 0
Prince of Wales Bank Guangya Tan (C) Shallowest natural depth is 7 m. Has corals. Some sources say that this is possessed by China and some say by Vietnam. 0
Bãi Phúc Tần (V)
Not Occupied by any Country
Int'l Name Local Names Description Area (ha.)
Alicia Anne Reef Arellano (P) A sand "cay", 1.2 m high. Many rocks above high tide line. 0
Xian'e Jiao (C)
Đá Suối Ngọc (V)
Baker Reef Gongzhen Jiao (C) Awash at low tide. 0
First Thomas Reef Xinyi Jiao (C) A few rocks are permanently above sea level. Much of the reef is above water at low tide. Encloses a lagoon. 0
Bãi Suối Ngà (V)
Holiday Reef Changxian Jiao (C) Above water only at low tide. Part of Union Banks. 0
Hopps Reef Lusha Jiao (C) Above water only at low tide. Part of Southampton Reefs. 0
Đá Hop (V)
Jackson Atoll Wufan(g) Jiao (C) Four or five portions are above water at low tide. Encloses a lagoon. 0
Livock Reef Sanjiao Jiao (C) Above water only at low tide. Some rocks still visible at high tide. Part of Southampton Reefs. 0
Menzies Reef Mengzi Jiao (C) Awash at low tide. Part of Loaita Bank. 0
Đá Men Di (V)
Sandy Cay/ Extension Reef Tiexian Jiao (C) A low sand cay; fringing reef above water at high tide. ??
Tieshi Jiao Tieshi Jiao (C) Above water only at low tide. Located at Northeast of Thitu Island and usually unnamed in most map. 0
Zhangxi Jiao Zhangxi Jiao (C) Small reef, partly above water only at low tide. Part of Union Banks. 0

20th century timeline

1927 The French ship SS De Lanessan conducted a scientific survey of the Spratly Islands
1930 France launched a second expedition with the La Malicieuse, which raises the French flag on an island called Ile de la Tempete. Chinese fishermen were present on the island, but the French make no attempt to expel them.
1932 The Republic of China sent the French government a memorandum contesting their sovereignty over the Spratlys, based on the Chinese interpretation of the 1887 treaty ending the Sino-French War.
1933 Three French ships had taken control of nine of the largest islands and declared French sovereignty over the archipelago. France administered the area as part of Cochinchina. The Empire of Japan disputed French sovereignty over the islands, citing evidence of phosphate mining by private Japanese citizens.
1939 Japan declared its intention to place the island group under its jurisdiction. France and the United Kingdom protested and reasserted French sovereignty claims.
1941 Japan forcibly occupied the island group and remained in control until the end of World War II, administering the area as part of Taiwan. A submarine base was established on Itu Aba.
1945 After Japan's surrender at the end of World War II, France and the Republic of China reassert claims on the Spratly Islands. China sent troops to the islands, and Chinese landing forces erected sovereignty markers.
1946 France dispatched warships to the islands several times but no attempts are made to evict Chinese forces.
1947 France demanded the Chinese withdraw from the islands.
1948 France ceased maritime patrols near the islands and China withdrew most of its troops.
1951 At the 1951 San Francisco Conference on the Peace Treaty with Japan, delegates from Vietnam; which, at that time, was still French-controlled; claimed sovereignty over the Paracel and the Spratly Islands.
1956 Tomas Cloma, director of the Maritime Institute of the Philippines, claimed sovereignty over much of the Spratly Islands, naming his territory "Kalaya'an" ("Freedomland"). The People's Republic of China, the Republic of China, France, South Vietnam, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands all issued protests. The Republic of China and South Vietnam launched naval units to the islands, though South Vietnam left no permanent garrison. North Vietnam supported the PRC's claims, declaring that "according to Vietnamese data, the Xisha and Nansha Islands are historically part of Chinese territory." Later in the year, South Vietnam declared its annexation of the Spratly Islands as part of its Phuoc Tuy province.
1958 The People's Republic of China issued a declaration defining its territorial waters which encompassed the Spratly Islands. North Vietnam's prime minister, Pham Van Dong, sent a formal note to Zhou Enlai, stating that "The Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam respects this decision."
1961-3   South Vietnam established sovereignty markers on several islands in the chain.
1968 The Philippines sent troops to three islands on the premise of protecting Kalayaan citizens and announced the annexation of the Kalayaan island group.
1971 Malaysia issued claims to some of the Spratly Islands.
1972 The Philippines incorporated the Kalayaan islands into its Palawan province.
1975 A recently-unified Vietnam declared claims over the Spratly Islands.
1978 A presidential decree from the Philippines outlined territorial claims to the islands.
1979 Malaysia published a map of its continental shelf claim, which includes twelve islands from the Spratly group. Vietnam published a white paper outlining its claims to the islands and disputing those of the other claimants.
1982 Vietnam published another white paper, occupied several of the islands and constructed military installations. The Philippines also occupied several more islands and constructed an air strip.
1983 Malaysia occupied Swallow Reef (Layang Layang), one of the Spratly Islands. A naval base and resort was later built at this location.
1984 Brunei established an exclusive fishing zone encompassing the Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands, but did not publicly claim the area.
1987 The People's Republic of China conducted naval patrols in the Spratly Islands and established a permanent base.
1988 PRC and Vietnam ships had a minor clash over Johnson Reef. PRC forces prevailed and retain control of the area.

See also

Template:Territorial disputes in East and South Asia

External links


  1. Spick, Mike. Dangerous Ground!, Air Forces Monthly, Dec. 1993

Original Source

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page was adapted from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Spratly Islands. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Wikipedia, WikiPilipinas also allows reuse of content made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike. See full WikiMedia Terms of Use.