Countries have fought over territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but a recent rise in tensions has provoked concerns that the area is going through a critical moment and could have global consequences. Above, an aerial view shows Pagasa Island, which belongs to the disputed Spratly group of islands, claimed by China and Vietnam.
Na Son Nguyen/AP
Vietnamese protesters hold national flags and a slogan that reads "Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands belong to Vietnam" during a protest in Hanoi, Vietnam.
This aerial view of the city of Sansha on an island in the disputed Paracel chain, which China now considers part of Hainan province. China captured the Paracels from Vietnam in 1974.
ERIK DE CASTRO/REUTERS
Demonstrators in the Philippine capital of Manila chant anti-China slogans as they march towards the Chinese consulate in protest over the Scarborough Shoal islands.
Abner Afuang, a former mayor and policeman, burns a Chinese flag during a protest in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Manila. Philippine defence and military officials have expressed concern over China's imposition of its claims in disputed areas in the South China Sea.
The Senkaku Islands, also known as the Diayou Islands in China, are a group of uninhabited islands. The archipelago is administered by Japan, but claimed by China. Sovereignty over the islands would give the ruling country exclusive oil, fishing and mineral rights in surrounding waters. Above, crew members on a Chinese surveillance ship take pictures as
they sail near the disputed islands.
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
A banner shows an image of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda beside a picture of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong during an anti-Japanese protest outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing. The protesters were aroused by the disputed Diaoyu Islands, claimed by both China and Japan.
Getty Images/Getty Images
Anti-Japanese protesters are confronted by police as they demonstrate over the disputed Diaoyu Islands on September 16 in Shenzhen.
On September 15, protests against Japan for control of the disputed islands spread across
more than a dozen cities in China and turned violent at times. Above, residents look at an over-turned Japanese-branded car during an anti-Japan protest in Xi'an in northwest China's Shaanxi province.
An anti-Japan protester wears a banner reading 'Down with Japanese militarism' during a march to the Japanese Consulate General in Hong Kong.
On September 25, the Taiwanese fleet, which includes fishing boats and armed coast guard vessels, entered the waters in the East China Sea. Above, a Japan Coast
Guard's patrol boat, shooting water against Taiwanese fishing boats.
After Japan and China, Taiwan is the third country to lay claim on
the islands. Japanese coast guard vessels fired water cannon to turn
away around 40 Taiwanese fishing boats.
According to the Japanese coast guard, all the Taiwanese vessels had left the territorial waters.