CNN takes a rare inside look at the disputed waters, where China and the US are fighting for influence
Fiery Cross Reef
Source: The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, Maps4news.com/©HERE
Chapter 01 Disputed waters
Controversy over the South China Sea has been building for decades.
At issue are these reefs and shoals which make up the Spratly and Paracel island chains.
The South China Sea is a confusing web of territorial claims. At least six governments say they’re the rightful owner of parts of the Spratlys and the Paracels.
The Chinese government claims an enormous area under what is known as the “nine-dash line.” Beijing maintains the area has been under Chinese rule since “ancient times” — many disagree.
The Philippines government also claims the majority of the Spratly chain, which lies off their shores. But so far, President Rodrigo Duterte has wanted warmer relations with China, rather than conflict.
Vietnam claims the Paracel chain and parts of the Spratlys, saying they fall under Hanoi’s control. The Chinese government has repeatedly blocked Hanoi’s attempts to explore for oil inside what both regard as their territory.
There are also a number of other, smaller claimants to the South China Sea.
Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all claim or control parts of the region, but either due to the smaller size of their stakes or their inability to enforce them, they seldom come into conflict over the issue.
On its mission with the US Navy, the P-8A Poseidon flew from Okinawa, Japan, to the Chinese-controlled areas of the South China Sea.
Once there, the plane passed by three of the most heavily fortified islands claimed by the Chinese government: Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef.