The Spratly Islands are a collection of submerged rock ridges and small islands consisting of a circular coral reef (Dzurek 9). The Islands lie in the shores of the Philippine and Malaysian coasts, covering a land area of about four square kilometers. The sea covers an area of 425,000 square kilometers (Dzurek 13). Spartly islands are one of the three archipelagos found in the South China Sea. Archipelago refers to a group of Islands in a large body of water.
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The Islands that make up the archipelagos possess little economic value, although they play a critical role in creating boundaries. The Islands are of volcanic origin and possess little arable land. The Islands do not have indigenous inhabitants although Taiping Island and twenty others have the potential to support human life (Dzurek 26). Natural resources in the Islands are fish, excrement of sea birds as well as the irresolute prospect of oil and natural gas.
The Islands main economic activities are fishing, shipping, and tourism. The Islands boasts of a minimum of three fishing ports, waterfronts, helicopter airports, and several airstrips (Dzurek 31). Coral reefs are the principal form in the Islands that support little vegetation. Tourism, political wavering and continued industrialization of the countries bordering the Islands have resulted in the distraction of indigenous flora and fauna as well as ecological degradation and resource exploitation (Dzurek 42). Military associations in the Spartly Islands have involved themselves in activities that have largely degraded the biodiversity.
The Spratly Islands have experienced several disputes between different parties over its geographical location and ownership. The first group to lay claim on the Islands was the Philippines (Phy 12). Philippine’s association with the Spratly Islands started in 1956 when a team from the Philippines surveyed and invaded some parts of Spartly Islands. The Allied powers offered protection to Philippine although with time their commitment to this course faded.
In 1976, the Philippines set up a military camp on Palawan Island to beef up security. In 1979, a statement from the Philippines indicated that their interest was only in the seven Islands that were under its control (Phy 19). Malaysia has involved itself in the dispute since 1979 and currently controls over three Islands. Malaysia bases its involvement in the dispute to the reality that some of the Islands constitute its continental ridge (Phy 23). The Law on sea convention accords Malaysia as well as Brunei rights to the highlands. The Law on sea identifies the southern portion of the Spartly chain as Malaysia’s continental ridge and consequently its terrain and resource.
Taiwan, China, and Kuomintang governments involve themselves in the dispute over the Spratly Islands heavily. Taiwan established a military camp in the largest Island of Itu Aba that is claimed on the assertion that together with the Kuomintang government represented the real China (Roberts 17). Taiwan and China claim that Chinese sailing masters discovered the Islands and practiced fishing. The main champions in the dispute over the Spratly Islands are the Republic of China and Vietnam. In the early 19th century, France made claims on Spartly and Paracel Islands on behalf of Vietnam, which was its colony at the time (Roberts 22).
According to Vietnam, the Islands constitute the empire of Annam, who was their ancestor during the 19th century. Vietnam controls three Islands and claims that the Philippines reside in its terrain. China has been aggressive in pursuing its claims on the Islands. Notwithstanding the reality that both China and Vietnam made concurrent claims on these Islands, neither of the two was aware of their neighbors’ claims to the same territories (Roberts 25). Japan had also settled in some of the Islands during the Second World War, where their territories acted as an underwater base for activity in Southeast Asia.
Dzurek, Daniel. The Spratly Island Dispute. New York: IBRU, 1996. Print.
Phy, Sopheada. The Management of the Spratly Islands Conflict: Success or Failure? New York: GRIN Verlag, 2010. Print.
Roberts, Chris. Chinese Strategy and the Spratly Islands Dispute. Canberra: Strategic & Defense Studies Centre, Australian National University, 1996. Print.