South China Sea

The “South China Sea Sovereignty Analysis” provides a detailed geographic and cartographic assessment of the littoral States that encircle the South China Sea and their competing territorial claims over the insular features located within the enclosed waters. It will provide a completely neutral summary of the claims over the islands, reefs and shoals, and the maritime entitlements generated by these features.

The littoral States that enclose the South China Sea are China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam. These States form the perimeter around a maritime area that covers approximately 3,500,000 square kilometers, through which nearly 3 trillion dollars of cargo flow annually. Its strategic importance to the global economy cannot be overemphasized. For the purpose of this report, the claims and entitlements of Taiwan will be considered independently from mainland China.

From north to south, the insular features located within the South China Sea include the Pratas Islands, the Paracel Islands, Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands. Collectively, there are more than two hundred islands, islets, shoals and reefs that are scattered throughout the South China Sea. Claims to territorial sovereignty over these features have been made by six of the littoral States mentioned above. Only Indonesia posits maritime claims within the South China Sea that do not include any high-tide elevations where questions of territorial sovereignty might come into play. The figure below shows the location of these island groups relative to each other and the littoral States who claim them.

South China Sea Overview Map

The Sovereignty Analysis provides an overview of the disputed features in the South China Sea and a detailed assessment of each State’s claims, as well as detailed, high-quality maps of those claim lines.

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