The History of the Spratly Islands in the
South China Sea
by Wolfgang Schippke, DC3MF

Last update: 26.01.98


59 Most of the Paracel, the Spratlys and Pratas Island were konwn by Chinese geographers of the Han Dynasty
220 Nansha Island was settlet by Chinese monks, building up a monastery on that island.
789 The Han Dynasty gave the islands under the administration of Zhenyuan Province
990 Spratley Islands became a part of the Northern Sung area in Hainan
1121 Kublai Khan controlled most of the islands
1211 The island group is first shown on an Chinese Map
1250 Chinese frishermen became the right by the Pan-Han Dynasty to settle on some of the northern islets and reefs.
1293 Cheng Ho, the official minister of the Ming Kings, visited several northern islands of the Spartly Group
1405 The Chinese Cheng Deng Ho made several vojages to the Spratly Group and mapped most of the northern reefs and island, today a reason for China, to occupay the complete group. In 1436 an excellent map of the reefs is shown by the Ming-Dynasty.
1406 - 1444 most of the reefs and islet were successsively maped by Chinese geographers
1478 A China brigg run on Amboya Cay's reef and Archeologists found about 300 ancident vessels, made by ceramics.
1530 Alvarez de Diegoz, one of Albuquerque's navigators found several scattered tiny islets and reefs on his way to the future Macao area
1606 The Spain adventure and sailor Andreas de Pessora reached some of the western Spratly islands and named 'a larger islet' with the name Isla Santa Esmeralda Pequena. Today it is unknown which island Pessora reached, but it could be Spratly Island, or also one of the south-eastern islets.
1710 The Chinese Ching Dynasty claimbed two northern islands and errected a small temple on North East Cay.
1730 Pirates settlet on several islands and hold up British, Portugese and Dutch ships, crossing the area. In 1735 the British troups runn over and destroyed several priate camps located on some islands.
1791 Captain Spratle arived in the group and named the islands by his name. He was one of Captain Collets navigators.
1798 The British built up a iron observation tower on Itu Aba Islet. The remainds are visible till today.
1802 Vietnam claimbed several islands in the Spratley Group and built up a military base on Amboyna Cay.
1804 The British vessel HMS Macclesfield run on a drying reef in the southwest corner of the shoals, known today as the Macclesfield Shoals (Bank)
1883 The Germans want to claimb several islands in the Spartly Group, but the Chinese Government threatened with war. After several government notes between Berlin and Peking, Germany became the area of Tsingtau.
1885 China claimbed official all islands of the Spratly Group
1887 The France built up the first lighttower on Amboyna Cay
1899 The French claimbed and annexed the Paracel and the Spratly Group. Also it claimbed the Pratas Island.
1901 Japan take over Pratas Island from the French and sold the island in 1908 to China.
1902 Chinese war-ships attaced French bases in the Spartly Islands.
1908 China gave the right to mine guano from the islands to the British Australian Guano LTD.
1927-1928 Japan want to claimb Amboyna Cay, but was expelled by Vietnam.
1930 French - Japan War over the rights on the Paracel Islands, and some of the north-western Spratley Reefs.
1933 France declared Spratly Island and Amboyna Cay as an official part of French Indochina
1937 Vietnam hold official 9 islands in the Spratley Group and 5 islands in the Paracel Group.
1939-44 The Spratly Islands were occupied by Japan and used as a submarine base during the Second World War. The two major bases were on Itu Aba and on Namyit Island in the Tizard Bank.
1946 China declared the Spratlys as a part of the Guangdong Province
1947 The Philippines claimbed some of the eastern islands in the Spratly Group and claimbed too the Scarborough Reef.
1948 The Philippines claimbed the offshore Scarborough Reef, one of the most outlier reefs in the northeastern Spratly Islands. A light was errected and an oberservationtower on the South Rock, a 5 ft high rocky and steep sided islet.
1951 At the San Francisco conference, Japan renounces all rights to the Spratly Islands. No resolution is made on who owns them.
1956 The Philippines built up a mailitary base on North Danger Reef.
1961 Taiwan annexed several reefs in the northeastern part of the Spratly Group.
1969 On Spratly Island the American Navy errected a Radar Station, closed in 1971.
1974 China occupies Paracel Islands to the north of the Spratly Islands, taking them from South Vietnam.
1978 China occupies six atolls in the Spratly Islands, taking them from Vietnam.
1979, 21.Dec. Malaysia claimbed Swallow Reef (Layang Layang Reef) and built up a base. In January 1980 Malaysia continued in claimbing and annexed several reefs in the southern and south-western group. A second Malayan station was built on Amboyna Cay, heave disputed with Vietnam
1982 Internatinal conflict between Vietnam and Malysia, when Malaysia claimbed Amboyna Cay.
1984 Brunei claimbed the Louise Reef in the eastern group
1988 Chinese and Vietnamese navies clash at Johnson Reef. Two Vietnamese gunboats are sunk and seventy people die. China still occupies the reef.
1991 Indonesia organises the first of its annual informal meetings (The South China Sea Workshop) of the six claimants to the Spratly Islands to find a peaceful solution to the dispute. Malaysia begins to develop a reef for tourism.
1992 ASEAN nations and China call for restraint in pursuit of territorial claims in the Spratly Islands.
1994,November The US oil giant Exxon signs a US$35 billion deal to develop the gas fields north of Natuna Island. This area is partly claimed by China.
1995,8 February The Philippines's armed forces discover Chinese-constructed concrete markers on Mischief Reef, within 200 kilometres of Palawan Island, in the Philippines.
1995,20-28 March The Philippines seize Chinese fishing boats and crew, and destroy Chinese markers on Mischief Reef.
1995,31 March Taiwanese naval mission of armed patrol boats to the Spratly Islands is called off midway to its destination.
1995, 7 April Indonesia expresses concern over Chinese maps claiming sovereignty over part of the huge Natuna gas fields to the south of the Spratly Islands.