Paracel Islands

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The Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群岛 in Chinese) is a group of islands under the administration of Hainan Province, The People's Republic of China. Vietnam also claims sovereignty of these islands.

The Paracel/Xisha Islands consist of over 30 islets, sandbanks or reefs, occupy about 15,000 km² of the ocean surface, and are located in the South China Sea. Turtles live on the islands, and seabirds have left nests and guano deposits, but there are no permanent human residents except for a small number of troops. The archipelago is approximately equidistant from the coastlines of Vietnam and China, 180 nautical miles SE of Hainan Island, and about one-third of the way from central Vietnam to the northern Philippines.

The islands are divided into two main groups. The Amphitrite group (宣德群岛) is in the northeast and the Crescent group (永乐群岛) is in the southwest, and they are located about 70 km (43 mi) from one another. Subject to hot and humid climate, with abundant rainfall and frequent typhoons, the archipelago is surrounded by productive fishing grounds and potential oil and gas reserves. Notably, up until the early 19th century, the present-day Spratly Islands were still delineated as part of the Paracel archipelago, and the sovereignty over the islands has been inflaming the century-old dispute.

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