Explorations in Southeast Asian Studies
A Journal of the Southeast Asian Studies Student Association
Vol 3 Fall 1999
[Ed. Spratly Islands]
Todd C. Kelly
Todd C. Kelly graduated from the M.A. program in Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in August 1999.
There is a tide in the affairs of men
On a string of mere flyspeck islands in the middle of the high seas, the military forces of five nations stand arrayed against one another, each prepared to do battle with the others. The land these potential belligerents seek to control is barely any land at all, but rather a group of tiny rocks, many of which are frequently under water. No humans have ever settled there, and for centuries the only nations that knew of their existence recognized them primarily as a hazard to maritime navigation. How then did this chain of islets, which the nations of Asia and the world considered insignificant for so long, suddenly become so important that battles have been fought over them and countries continue to risk war in order to control the chain? The answers are as difficult to see as are the Truong Sa Islands themselves at high tide.