Map June 2012

Intrigue in the South China Sea

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Map by Lon Tweeten

Also see:

The Vietnam Solution
Robert D. Kaplan explains how a former enemy became a crucial U.S. ally in balancing China’s rise

The Paracels and the Spratlys, two archipelagoes consisting of hundreds of tiny islands, reefs, and sandbanks, are at the center of fierce territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The islands are desirable not for their land, which totals about five square miles, but for their proximity to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, access to fishing resources, and the oil and gas believed to lie beneath.

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Eleanor Smith is an Atlantic senior associate editor.

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