Map key
  • China
  • Philippines
  • Taiwan
  • Vietnam
  • Brunei
  • Malaysia

Disputed Waters

Fishing boats are seen on bay of Ly Son islands of Vietnam’s central Quang Ngai province April 10, 2012. On March 3, 2012 China detained 21 Vietnamese fishermen and their two boats while they were plying the waters around the Paracel Islands. REUTERS/Kham


Vietnam’s official stance on sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly islands was first established in a White Paper issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1974. Like China, Vietnam bases its claims on historical evidence, economic development and international recognition.

Vietnam controls 25 features in the Spratlys

Spratly Island, Namyit Island, Sin Cowe Island, Amboyna Cay, Sand Cay, West Reef, Central Reef, East Reef, Bombay Castle, Barque Canada Reef, Pearson Reef, Alison Reef, Cornwallis South Reef, Tennent Reef, Lansdowne Reef, Collins Reef, Sin Cowe Island, Union Reefs, Discovery Great Reef, Petley Reef, South Reef, Vanguard Bank, Prince Consort Bank, Grainger Bank, Ladd Reef.

Map of Vietnam and the South China Sea

Principal economic interests

Fishing: According to the U.S.-based Center for Naval Analyses, Vietnam has the 9th largest fishing industry in the world, catching an estimated 2.4 million tons of fish in 2012, which constituted 3.03 percent of the world total.
Oil: Crude is Vietnam’s largest foreign currency generator. Foreign companies such as BP, which conduct survey exploration in disputed waters in cooperation with Hanoi, have been forced to withdraw offshore drilling platforms amid pressure from China.

Regional infrastructure

  • Spratly Island
  • Sand Cay
  • West Reef

Recent VOA headlines

May 4, 2014: A Chinese coast guard vessel, right, fires water cannon at a Vietnamese vessel off the coast of Vietnam. China insists it had every right to drill for oil off Vietnam’s coast and warned its neighbor to leave the area around the deep-sea rig where Chinese and Vietnamese ships are engaged in a tense standoff. (AP Photo/Vietnam Coast Guard)

Timeline of events