Spratly Islands is made up of over a 100 islands, shoals and reefs. The land area is less than 5 square kilometers right at the center of West Philippine Sea. So why do regional players such China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines squabbling over it? And what is the interest of the United States of America in the issue? The simple answer is the potential for oil and natural gasoline in the area. The more complex geopolitical answer is power projection.
The purpose of this paper is to know some of the hint of the argument concerning authority over the Spratly Islands that is often ignored by commentators as they continue the most often debated topic in South China Sea studies, which is, of course, who has the best claim to some or all of the islands. A slightly witty version of the sub-text of these remarks would be, does it matter who owns the Spratly? The answer to this question is of course important for all type of reasons.
2. Historical background
The first European to navigate the Philippine Sea was Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, who named it Mar Filipinas when he and his men were in the Mariana Islands prior to the exploration of the Philippines. Later it was discovered by other Spanish explorers from 1522 to 1565 and the site of the famous galleon trade route. Between June 19 and 20, 1944, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, a very large and decisive World War II naval battle between Japan and the United States, took place in the eastern Philippine Sea, near the Mariana Islands. The aircraft carriers Taihō, Shōkaku, Junyō, Hiyō and Ryuho were bombed, torpedoed and sank by American carrier-based planes and assaulted from other naval vessels. This was also the site of the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” prior to the Allied conquests of Saipan, Guam and Tinian in the Marianas, Palau in the Southwest, and the Philippines. Following an escalation of the Spratly Islands dispute in 2011, various Philippine government agencies started using the neologism "West Philippine Sea" to refer to the South China Sea. However, a Pagasa spokesperson said that the sea to the east of the Philippines will continue to be called the Philippine Sea.
2.1 Spratly Islands dispute
The Spratly Islands dispute is a territorial dispute over the ownership of the Spratly Islands, a group of islands located in the South China Sea. States staking claims to various islands are: Brunei, China (People's Republic of China), Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan (Republic of China), and Vietnam. All except Brunei occupy some of the islands. The Spratly Islands are important for a number of reasons: the Spratly area holds significant reserves of oil and natural gas, it is a productive area for world fishing and commercial shipping, and coastal countries would get an extended continental shelf. But some states, like China (PRC), Taiwan (ROC), and Vietnam make claims based on historical sovereignty over the islands.
2.1.1 Reasons for the dispute
There are multiple reasons why the neighboring nations would be interested in the Spratly Islands. In 1968 oil was discovered in the region. The Geology and Mineral Resources Ministry of the People's Republic of China (PRC) 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. These large reserves assisted in intensifying the situation and propelled the territorial claims of the neighboring countries. In 1968, the Philippines started to take their claims more seriously and stationed troops on three islands which had been claimed by the adventurer Tomas Cloma as part of Freedomland. In 1973 Vietnamese troops were stationed on five islands. On 11 March 1976, the first major Philippine oil discovery occurred off the coast of Palawan, near the Spratly Islands...