Paracel Islands facts on every entity in the world

The Paracel Islands are surrounded by productive fishing grounds and by potential oil and gas reserves. In 1932, French Indochina annexed the islands and set up a weather station on Pattle Island; maintenance was continued by its successor, Vietnam. China has occupied all the Paracel Islands since 1974, when its troops seized a South Vietnamese garrison occupying the western islands. China built a military installation on Woody Island with an airfield and artificial harbor. The islands also are claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.



Southeastern Asia, group of small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, about one-third of the way from central Vietnam to the northern Philippines

Geographic coordinates

16.30° N, 112.00° E


total: ca. 7.75 sq km

land: ca. 7.75 sq km

water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative


Land boundaries

0 km


518 km

Maritime claims





mostly low and flat


mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: South China Sea 0 m

highest point: unnamed location on Rocky Island 14 m

Natural resources


Land use

agricultural land: 0%

arable land 0%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 0%

forest: 0%

other: 100% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards


Environment - current issues


Geography - note

composed of 130 small coral islands and reefs divided into the northeast Amphitrite Group and the western Crescent Group

People and Society


no indigenous inhabitants

note: there are scattered Chinese garrisons


Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Paracel Islands

etymology: Portuguese navigators began to refer to the "Ilhas do Pracel" in the 16th century as a designation of low lying islets, sandbanks, and reefs scattered over a wide area; over time the name changed to "parcel" and then "paracel"


Economy - overview

The islands have the potential for oil and gas development. Waters around the islands support commercial fishing, but the islands themselves are not populated on a permanent basis.


Airports 230/236

1 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

Ports and terminals

small Chinese port facilities on Woody Island and Duncan Island

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

occupied by China, also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam