The Paracel Islands, also known as Xisha in Chinese and Hoàng Sa in Vietnamese, is a group of islands, reefs, banks and other maritime features in the South China Sea. It is controlled (and occupied) by the People's Republic of China, and also claimed by Taiwan (Republic of China) and Vietnam.
The archipelago includes about 130 small coral islands and reefs, most grouped into the northeast Amphitrite Group or the western Crescent Group. They are distributed over a maritime area of around 15,000 square kilometres (5,800 sq mi), with a land area of approximately 7.75 square kilometres (2.99 sq mi). The archipelago is approximately equidistant from the coastlines of China (PRC) and Vietnam; and approximately about one-third of the way from central Vietnam to the northern Philippines.
China (PRC) took over the Amphitrite Group in 1950 from Taiwan (ROC) during the Chinese Civil War, and the Crescent Group from South Vietnam in the Battle of the Paracel Islands in January 1974. South Vietnam's claim to the islands was inherited by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, which has ruled all of Vietnam since 1976. In July 2012, China (PRC) established the city of Sansha, under Hainan Province, to administer the area.
Turtles and seabirds are native to the islands, which have a hot and humid climate, abundant rainfall and frequent typhoons. The archipelago is surrounded by productive fishing grounds and a seabed with potential, but as yet unexplored, oil and gas reserves.