The Spratly Islands or the Spratly’s is made up of 750 islands, islets, reef, atolls and cays located in the South China Sea bordering The Philippines, Peoples Republic of China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. It comprises under 4 square kilometers of land area in an area of 425, 000. Such a small archipelago right? Just a point on the map. No, actually u can’t see it unless you zoom in, its just letters on the map. But six countries are disputing this place for so many years already, that it made me wonder what was in those islands to make them fight over it.
A Brief History
The first possible human interaction with the Spratly Islands dates back between 600 BCE to 3 BCE. Ancient Chinese maps record these islands which they named, “Thousand Li Stretch of Sands”; Qianli Changsha (千里長沙) and “Ten-Thousand Li of Stone Pools”; Wanli Shitang (萬里石塘). Vietnam also has a record of the islands. Ancient Vietnamese maps records a place called; Bãi Cát Vàng (Golden Sandbanks, referring to both Paracels and the Spratly Islands). Both China and Vietnam were not aware that their neighbors have also charted the place. The islands were sporadically visited throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by mariners from different European powers (including Richard Spratly, after whom the island group derives its most recognizable English name). However, these nations showed little interest in the islands. In 1883, German boats surveyed the Spratly and Paracel Islands but withdrew the survey eventually after receiving protests from the Nguyen Dynasty. Many European maps before the 20th century do not even make mention of this region. In 1933, France asserted its claims over the Spratly and Paracel Islands in behalf of its then colony, Vietnam. This occupation was protested by China saying that Chinese fishermen are using the island. During the 2nd World War, Japan uses the islands as a submarine base for the occupation of Southeast Asia. It was then 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). After the war, China re-asserted its claim on the islands, taking Itu Aba from the Japanese and still occupy it until today. Today, 6 countries (The Republic of the Philippines, The Peoples Republic of China, The Peoples Republic of Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan)
It is located at coordinates; 8°38′N 111°55′E, it is comprised 750 islands, islets, reef, atolls and cays located in the South China Sea. Its coastline is measured at 926 km. It is a tropical island, with flat terrain.Its lowest point is leveled with the South China Sea while the highest point is 4m above sea level.
Its main islands are islands Itu Aba Island, Namyit Island, Northeast Cay, Sin Cowe Island, Southwest Cay, Spratly Island (proper), Swallow Reef, Thitu Island, West York Island. Itu Aba is occupied by the Taiwanese, Namyit Island, Sin Cowe Island, Southwest Cay, Spratly Island(Proper), Sand Cay, and Amboyna Cay island is occupied by the Vietnamese, Northeast Cay, Thitu Island, West York Island, Nanshan Island , Loaita Island , Flat Island, and Lankiam Cay is occupied by the Philippines, Swallow Reef is occupied by Malaysia, Johnson South Reef, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef is occupied by China.
So, what makes these islands so valuable that these 6 countries are shoving each other aside just to get advantage on the area?
Research in the area revealed that there are vast amounts of Guano in the area. The area also has undetermined oil deposits and a large potential for natural gas. It is also rich in marine resources.
As of now talks are still on going as to who gets the Spratly Islands. Eversince it was occupied there are a lot of incidents in the Spratlys. The latest one was just a few months ago when a Chinese patrol vessel harassed a Philippine exploration ship conducting seismic research near Palawan Island, which is not part of the Spratly’s. The Philippine governement sent two aircrafts to the area but the Chinese boats are already gone when the planes arrived.
Every ASEAN nation have been praying that the conflicts would be resolved sooner or later.
As for me, as a simple solution to the problem, whoever occupies the island, gets the island. No more arguments.