The Spratly Islands are a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea. They contain less than four square kilometers of land area spread over more than 425,000 square kilometers of sea. Initial surveys indicate the islands may contain significant reserves of oil and natural gas.
About 45 islands are occupied by relatively small numbers of military forces from Vietnam, the People's Republic of China, theRepublic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia and the Philippines. Brunei has also claimed an Exclusive Economic Zone in the southeastern part of the Spratlys encompassing just one area of small islands above mean high water (on Louisa Reef). This has led to escalating tensions over the Islands' disputed status.