The Spratly Islands are made up of 190 islets in an archipelago spread over 150,000 square miles in the South China Sea. All of the countries have strategic interests in staking a claim to some or all of the islands, as well as economic interests. The islands hold potentially significant oil and gas reserves.
China claims the entire South China Sea, while the other countries claim parts of it. Some of the countries have resorted to military action to demonstrate their claims to the Spratly Islands.
In July 2011, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations reached a tentative agreement on “behavioral guidelines” in this region, although it did not resolve the conflicting territorial claims.