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Paracel Islands

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The Paracel Islands are disputed islands and reefs north of the Equator, and some 375 km east of Da Nang, Vietnam.

About The Paracel Islands

Known as Hoàng Sa Archipelago in Vietnamese and Xisha Islands in Chinese, the Paracel Islands are a group of islands located east of Vietnam and are currently claimed by both Vietnam and China, as well as Taiwan.

You will only get to visit the Paracel Islands if you join the Chinese navy.

Paracel Islands Overview

The archipelago is located roughly in the central part of the South China Sea, and it is surrounded by important shipping lanes.

China currently controls the islands, but Vietnam claims sovereignty over them. The territorial disputes have led to tensions and occasional incidents in the region.


The Paracel Islands consist of more than 30 islets, sandbanks, and reefs.

The two main groups are the Amphitrite Group and the Crescent Group.

The largest island in the Paracels is Woody Island (known as Yongxing Island in China), which serves as the administrative centre of the Chinese-controlled Sansha City.

International Concerns

The territorial disputes in the South China Sea, including those related to the Paracel Islands, have drawn international attention.

Several countries, including the United States, have expressed concerns about the militarisation of the region and have called for the peaceful resolution of disputes based on international law.

Military Presence

Various claimants to the islands have established military installations in the region, contributing to heightened tensions.

China, in particular, has developed military facilities on some of the islands, including airstrips and naval facilities.

Strategic Importance

The South China Sea, where the Paracel Islands are located, is a region of great geopolitical significance due to its role in international trade and its potential for containing valuable natural resources, including oil and natural gas.

The control of these islands allows for strategic positioning and influence over maritime routes.

Disputed Islands

Although much nearer to Vietnam than China, the Paracel Islands would probably not change hands without a fight.

Map of Paracel Islands

North Vietnamese land forces might have held off the Chinese in the past, but a battle in the South China Sea would be costly.

The Chinese have port facilities on Paracel's Woody Island and the base at Duncan Island is being expanded. There is also a paved runway on Woody Island.

Something says that the Chinese want to stay put on the Paracel Islands for the oil reserves beneath the ocean.

The Paracel Islands were part of French Indochina, until the Japanese took hold of them during the Second World War.


Efforts have been made to address the disputes through diplomatic means, but a comprehensive resolution has not been reached, and tensions persist.

The situation in the South China Sea remains a complex and sensitive geopolitical issue with implications for regional stability.

See also Spratly Islands.

Visiting The Paracel Islands

Visiting the Paracel Islands could be challenging due to the territorial disputes and the fact that the islands are under Chinese control.

If you are interested in visiting the Paracel Islands, you would typically need to coordinate with Chinese authorities, and the visit might be subject to specific regulations and restrictions.

It's important to be aware of the geopolitical sensitivities surrounding the region, and any attempt to visit should be approached with an understanding of the complex political situation.

Before planning any trip, it is advisable to check the latest information on travel regulations, political developments, and any changes in access to the Paracel Islands.

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