East Asia/Southeast Asia :: Paracel Islands
  • Introduction :: Paracel Islands
  • Background:
    The Paracel Islands are surrounded by productive fishing grounds and by potential oil and gas reserves. In 1932, French Indochina annexed the islands and set up a weather station on Pattle Island; maintenance was continued by its successor, Vietnam. China has occupied all the Paracel Islands since 1974, when its troops seized a South Vietnamese garrison occupying the western islands. China built a military installation on Woody Island with an airfield and artificial harbor. The islands also are claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
  • Geography :: Paracel Islands
  • Location:
    Southeastern Asia, group of small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, about one-third of the way from central Vietnam to the northern Philippines
    Geographic coordinates:
    16 30 N, 112 00 E
    Map references:
    Southeast Asia
    total: 7.75 sq km ca.
    land: 7.75 sq km ca.
    water: 0 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 244
    Area - comparative:
    land area is about 13 times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC
    Land boundaries:
    0 km
    518 km
    Maritime claims:
    mostly low and flat
    lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
    highest point: unnamed location on Rocky Island 14 m
    Natural resources:
    Land use:
    agricultural land: 0% (2011 est.)
    arable land: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 0% (2011 est.)
    forest: 0% (2011 est.)
    other: 100% (2011 est.)
    Irrigated land:
    0 sq km (2012)
    Population distribution:
    a population of over 1,000 Chinese resides on Woody Island, the largest of the Paracels; there are scattered Chinese garrisons on some other islands
    Natural hazards:
    Environment - current issues:
    China's use of dredged sand and coral to build artificial islands harms reef systems; ongoing human activities, including military operations, infrastructure construction, and tourism endangers local ecosystem including birds, fish, marine mammals, and marine reptiles
    Geography - note:
    composed of 130 small coral islands and reefs divided into the northeast Amphitrite Group and the western Crescent Group
  • People and Society :: Paracel Islands
  • Population:
    1,440 (2014 est.)

    note: Chinese activity has increased in recent years, particularly on Woody Island, where the population exceeds 1,000; there are scattered Chinese garrisons on some other islands

    country comparison to the world: 235
    Population distribution:
    a population of over 1,000 Chinese resides on Woody Island, the largest of the Paracels; there are scattered Chinese garrisons on some other islands
  • Government :: Paracel Islands
  • Country name:
    conventional long form: none
    conventional short form: Paracel Islands
    etymology: Portuguese navigators began to refer to the "Ilhas do Pracel" in the 16th century as a designation of low lying islets, sandbanks, and reefs scattered over a wide area; over time the name changed to "parcel" and then "paracel"
  • Economy :: Paracel Islands
  • Economy - overview:
    The islands have the potential for oil and gas development. Waters around the islands support commercial fishing, but the islands themselves are not populated on a permanent basis.
  • Military and Security :: Paracel Islands
  • Military - note:
    occupied by China, which is assessed to maintain 20 outposts in the Paracels (Antelope, Bombay, and North reefs; Drummond, Duncan, Lincoln, Middle, Money, North, Pattle, Quanfu, Robert, South, Tree, Triton, Woody, and Yagong islands; South Sand and West Sand; Observation Bank); the outposts range in size from one or two buildings to bases with significant military infrastructure; Woody Island is the main base in the Paracels and includes an airstrip with fighter aircraft hangers, naval facilities, surveillance radars, and defenses such as surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles; fighter aircraft have deployed to the island (2020)
  • Transportation :: Paracel Islands
  • Airports:
    1 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 233
    Airports - with paved runways:
    total: 1 (2019)
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
    Ports and terminals:
    small Chinese port facilities on Woody Island and Duncan Island
  • Transnational Issues :: Paracel Islands
  • Disputes - international:

    occupied by China, also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam