One major flashpoint is the Spratly Islands, a mini-archipelago in the southeastern quadrant of the South China Sea. Several countries, including Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, lay claim to the chain of islets, which are expected to have vast reserves of natural resources around them. Due to contested claims, there's been little detailed exploration of the area -- and speculation has only added fuel to the fire.
The Philippines invokes its geographical proximity to the Spratly Islands as the main basis of its claim. Above, Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon points to a map on June 28, showing the island of Kalayaan ("Freedom" in Tagalog), that was created in 1978 to assert the Philippines' claim to the disputed territory in the Spratly Islands. The few dozen Filipinos living on the remote speck of land raise the Philippine flag every day as a sign of their nation's claim to the island group. The Philippines has been involved in a number of minor skirmishes in the area with Chinese, Vietnamese, and Malaysian forces.