South China Sea
The South China Sea lies to the south of China and is bounded by the coastlines of China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Taiwan. In the south-west it becomes the Gulf of Thailand. To the south the Serat Karimata gives access to the Java Sea; to the east the Balabac and Mindoro straits give access to the Sulu Sea and the Luzon Strait north of the Pkilippines gives access to the Pacific Ocean. The South China Sea contains a number of small island groups, uninhabited or inhabited only on a temporary basis by fishermen or by military detachments. These include the Paracel Islands and the Spratley Islands. The People's Republic of China lays claim to all the islands in the South China Sea; these claims are disputed by other nations bordering the sea. This rivalry is given added impetus by the large oil and gas reserves known to exist in the area.