Main Content

East Asia/Southeast Asia :: Paracel Islands Print
Page last updated on October 02, 2019
View 2 photos of
  • Introduction :: Paracel Islands
  • Background field listing
    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 field listing
    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 field listing
    16 30 N, 112 00 E
    Map references field listing
    Southeast Asia
    Area field listing
    total: 7.75 sq km ca.
    land: 7.75 sq km ca.
    water: 0 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 244
    Area - comparative field listing
    land area is about 13 times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC
    Land boundaries field listing
    0 km
    Coastline field listing
    518 km
    Maritime claims field listing
    Climate field listing
    Terrain field listing
    mostly low and flat
    Elevation field listing
    lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
    highest point: unnamed location on Rocky Island 14 m
    Natural resources field listing
    Land use field listing
    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 field listing
    0 sq km (2012)
    Population distribution field listing
    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 field listing
    Environment - current issues field listing
    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 field listing
    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 field listing
    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: 234
    Population distribution field listing
    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 field listing
    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 field listing
    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.
  • Transportation :: Paracel Islands
  • Airports field listing
    1 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 233
    Airports - with paved runways field listing
    total: 1 (2017)
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2017)
    Roadways field listing
    Ports and terminals field listing
    small Chinese port facilities on Woody Island and Duncan Island
  • Military and Security :: Paracel Islands
  • Military - note field listing
    occupied by China
  • Transnational Issues :: Paracel Islands
  • Disputes - international field listing

    occupied by China, also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam