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A timeline of disputes in the Spratly Islands



1939-44
The Spratly Islands occupied by Japan and used as a submarine base during the Second World War.

1951
At the San Francisco conference, Japan renounces all rights to the Spratly Islands. No resolution is made on who owns them.

1974
China occupies Paracel Islands to the north of the Spratly Islands (see the location of the Spratly Islands map), taking them from South Vietnam.

1978
China occupies six atolls in the Spratly Islands, taking them from Vietnam.

1988
Chinese and Vietnamese navies clash at Johnson Reef (see the Spratly Islands map). Two Vietnamese gunboats are sunk and seventy people die. China still occupies the reef.

1991
Indonesia organises the first of its annual informal meetings (The South China Sea Workshop) of the six claimants to the Spratly Islands to find a peaceful solution to the dispute. Malaysia begins to develop a reef for tourism.

1992
ASEAN nations and China call for restraint in pursuit of territorial claims in the Spratly Islands.

November 1994
The US oil giant Exxon signs a US$35 billion deal to develop the gas fields north of Natuna Island. This area is partly claimed by China.

8 February 1995
The Philippines's armed forces discover Chinese-constructed concrete markers on Mischief Reef, within 200 kilometres of Palawan Island, in the Philippines.

20-28 March 1995
The Philippines seize Chinese fishing boats and crew, and destroy Chinese markers on Mischief Reef.

31 March 1995
Taiwanese naval mission of armed patrol boats to the Spratly Islands is called off midway to its destination.

7 April 1995
Indonesia expresses concern over Chinese maps claiming sovereignty over part of the huge Natuna gas fields to the south of the Spratly Islands.

Nov 1998
The Philippines's armed forces discover more heavy Chinese-construction sites on Mischief Reef, within 200 kilometres of Palawan Island, in the Philippines


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©Rigby Heinemann 1995
created: 18 September 1995
revised: 18 September 1995