Somewhere off the coasts of Vietnam and Malaysia, next to the Philippines, in what is known as the South China Sea lie the Spratly Islands, a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands that form a ragged archipelago. Whoever owns the Spratlys holds a geostrategic key to the region.
The vying countries have decided to occupy the terrain by sending civilian and military personnel to survive on these remote fragments of rock, willing hostages of a diplomatic tug of war. They are playing out a tragicomic fable.
The Spratlys are a lawless zone, a paradise for traffickers and smugglers of all kinds. The Chinese, Vietnamese and Filipinos maintain excellent relations in their common efforts to plunder the regions resources.