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The Spratly Islands are a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays, and islands in the South China Sea. The archipelago lies off the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia, and southern Vietnam. They contain less than 4 square kilometers of land area spread over more than 425,000 square kilometers of sea. The Spratlys are one of 3 archipelagos of the South China Sea which comprise more than 30,000 islands and reefs and which complicate governance and economics in that region of Southeast Asia. Such small and remote islands have little economic value in themselves but are important in establishing international boundaries. No native islanders inhabit the islands which offer rich fishing grounds and may contain significant oil and natural gas reserves. About 45 islands are occupied by relatively small numbers of military forces from China, the Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Brunei has also claimed an exclusive economic zone in the southeastern part of the Spratlys encompassing just one area of small islands on Louisa Reef. This has led to escalating tensions between numerous countries over the disputed status of the islands. (via Freebase)