Group of several dozen small islands and reefs, south-central South China Sea. Located about midway between Vietnam and the Philippines, the group is claimed variously by Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Of the 12 main islets, the largest is the 90-acre (36-hectare) Itu Aba. Turtles and seabirds are the only permanent inhabitants. After World War II, China established a garrison on Itu Aba, which has been maintained by the Chinese government on Taiwan. All other claimants also have small military forces on several of the islands.
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