A Vietnamese naval soldier stands quard at Thuyen Chai island in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea on January 17, 2013.
China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim territory in the sea, which covers important shipping routes and is thought to hold untapped oil and gas reserves.
China claims sovereignty over vast swathes of the South China Sea, including the areas where Vietnam has been building up islands.
China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have lodged competing claims for some or all of the Spratly Islands.
In August, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam rejected a map released by China that denotes its claims to sovereignty including in the South China Sea.
Thuyen, Khanh Vu, Robert Birsel
Washington's Center, Strategic, International Studies, Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CSIS's, Transparency, Thomson
Thuyen Chai, Spratly, South, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, HANOI, South China, U.S, Spratly Islands, CSIS's Asia