Table 5

Table 5. Territorial Claims in the Spratly and Paracel Islands 

Country Claim
Brunei Does not claim any of the islands, but claims part of the South China Seas nearest to it as part of its continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In 1984, Brunei declared an EEZ that includes Louisa Reef.
China Refers to the Spratly Islands as the Nansha islands, and claims all of the islands and most of the South China Sea for historical reasons. These claims are not marked by coordinates or otherwise clearly defined. Chinese claims are based on a number of historical events, including the naval expeditions to the Spratly Islands by the Han Dynasty in 110 AD and the Ming Dynasty from 1403-1433 AD. Chinese fishermen and merchants have worked the region over time, and China is using archaeological evidence to bolster its claims of sovereignty. 

In the 19th and early 20th century, China asserted claims to the Paracel islands. During World War II, the islands were claimed by the Japanese. In 1947, China produced a map with 9 undefined dotted lines, and claimed all of the islands within those lines. A 1992 Chinese law restated its claims in the region.

China has occupied some of those islands. In 1976, China enforced its claim upon the Paracel Islands by seizing them from Vietnam. China refers to the Paracel Islands as the Xisha Islands, and includes them as part of its Hainan Island province. 

Indonesia Not a claimant to any of the Spratly Islands. However, Chinese and Taiwanese maritime zone claims in the South China Sea extend into Indonesia’s EEZ and continental shelf, including Indonesia’s Natuna gas field.
Malaysia Claims are based upon the continental shelf principle, and have clearly defined coordinates. Malaysia has occupied three islands that it considers to be within its continental shelf. Malaysia has tried to build up one atoll by bringing soil from the mainland and has built a hotel.
Philippines Its Spratly claims have clearly defined coordinates, based both upon proximity as well as on the explorations of a Philippine explorer in 1956. In 1971, the Philippines officially claimed 8 islands that it refers to as the Kalayaan, partly on the basis of this exploration, arguing that the islands: 1) were not part of the Spratly Islands; and 2) had not belonged to anybody and were open to being claimed. In 1972, they were designated as part of Palawan Province. 
Taiwan Taiwan’s claims are similar to those of China, and are based upon the same principles. As with China, Taiwan’s claims are also not clearly defined. 
Vietnam Vietnamese claims are based on history and the continental shelf principle. Vietnam claims the entire Spratly Islands as an offshore district of the province of Khanh Hoa. Vietnamese claims also cover an extensive area of the South China Sea, although they are not clearly defined. The Vietnamese have followed the Chinese example of using archaeological evidence to bolster sovereignty claims. In the 1930’s, France claimed the Spratly and Paracel Islands on behalf of its then-colony Vietnam. Vietnam has occupied a number of the Spratly Islands. In addition, Vietnam claims the Paracel Islands, although they were seized by the Chinese in 1974.

            Source: “South China Sea Region,” United States Energy Information Administration, Country Analysis Briefs, August 1998 and Greg Austin, China’s Ocean Frontier: International Law, Military Force, and National Development, Allen & Unwin, 1998

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