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Spratly Islands

Last modified: 2021-11-05 by ian macdonald
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The Spratly Islands, located in the South China Sea (approx. 115°E 10°N), are uninhabited and disputed between the following countries:

António Martins, 28 Jul 1999

ISO Code: None
FIPS 10-4 Code: PG
status: disputed territory

Private Claims

In an article entitled "Flags of the South China Sea" by Dr. Whitney Smith (Flag Bulletin, Vol. XVII, No. 6, November-December 1978, pgs 183-191) a complete history of the vexillology of the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands is given. I can but give a brief synopsis.

These islands have been claimed at one time or another by the Philippines, Japan, France, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Republic of South Vietnam, the People's Republic of China, and the Republic of China. Supposedly included in Spanish territory by the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, the islands were specifically excluded from Philippine territory by the 1898 Treaty of Paris. Japan renounced its claims in the peace treaty of 1951. The US maintains an Air Force observation station there since 1957, but has made no claims. The PRC has occupied the Paracel Islands since 1971. In addition there have been a number of private individuals who have asserted territorial rights (sometimes in conflict with each other) under the names of the Kingdom of Humanity, the Republic of Morac-Songhrati-Meads, the Principality of Freedomland, the Free Territiory of Freedomland, and the Republic of Koneuwe.

Kingdom of Humanity and Republic of Morac-Songhrati-Meads

Kingdom of Humanity

[Kingdom of Humanity] image by David Martucci

In 1863-1879 a British subject, Captain James George Meads explored the South China Sea in his ship the "Modeste." He laid claim to the Spratlys and the Paracels. Later he transferred ownership to a relative, Franklin M. Meads who helped organize the Kingdom of Humanity. It was proclaimed in April 1914 by Franklin Meads in conjunction with Victor L. and Charles G. Anderson, William Chaplin, Willis Alva Ryant, Paul Williard and Walter Hutchinson. Meads took the title of Chief of State and they renamed the South China Sea the Humanity Sea to discourage the Chinese claims. Section 9 of Article IX of the constitution states

The Flag of the Kingdom of Humanity shall be Green, White and Black, in any combination of equal proportion, green for life and white and black for the two sides of every matter -- except the principles and ideals of this Constitution which are symbolized by the green of life upon which this Constitution is founded.

The flag was designed by Franklin M. Meads and was said to have a design and meaning revealed only to citizens of the country, information which is unavailable to those living outside. The same was later said of the flag of the Republic of Morac-Songhrati-Meads. The actual flag is green, with a spiral of white over black and a red inscription along the hoist "Kingdom of Humanity."

The Japanese were in the islands briefly in 1917 and occupied them from 1939 to 1945. Following World War II, Franklin Meads transferred his title to Josiah N. Meads in October 1945. In November, 1945 the title passed to Morton F. Meads, but because of his youth Willis Alva Ryant served as Chief of State until September 1963. Morton Meads is said to have lived in the islands, raising chickens, ducks and goats and processing gooney birds for the restaurants of Saigon and Manila. Meanwhile, claims over the islands which had been made by Sultan Songhrati, who lived in the Netherlands East Indies, were sold in 1946 successively to the sister of the Philippine President and then to Morton F. Meads.

Republic of Morac-Songhreti-Meads

[Republic of Morac-Songhreti-Meads] image by David Martucci

In September 1959 a rival government, the Republic of Morac-Songhreti-Meads, was established. This dispute eventually ended and the kingdom and the republic were amalgamated in September 1963. In theory, the territory continues to exist today under the name Republic of Morac-Songhreti-Meads. The Republic has a seal showing the traditional yin-yang emblem surrounded by the eight kwae found in Korean symbolism and some inscriptions described as "extremely crude French" meaning "The extirpation of hypocrisy from the surface of the earth must be done; east is west and west is east and this state wishes to render to the elder the great and good peace of love of the state of Morac-Songhreti-Meads." The seal of the Kingdom of Humanity was the same except the inscription read "East is West and West is East and I Am the Twain That Will Make It So."

Article II of the constitution of the republic states

... The National emblem is a flag half yellow and half black with two figures in the center in red juxtaposed with a white star in the center of each figure.

Christopher Schneider, founder of the Republic of Morac-Songhreti-Meads and its "Chief of State" was the designer of the flag. The words "REPUBLIC OF" are written in black on the top yellow stripe and "MOROC-SONGHRATI MEADS" in yellow on the lower black stripe. The "two figures in the center in red juxtaposed" on a sample flag appear as a single red area, although intended to be a yin-yang symbol. Also, the word "Morac" is spelled "Moroc" on the sample flag. Smith conjectures "Morac" may be an acronym derived from Morton (Meads), Ryant, Anderson, and Chaplin.

Free Territory of Freedomland

[Free Territory of Freedomland] image by David Martucci

A number of reefs and islands surrounding the Spratlys were claimed by Philippine millionaire Thomas Cloma on 15 May 1956 under this name. The flag consisted of a red field with a very broad navy blue border on all four sides, in the center a highly stylized white flying bird. Cloma almost provoked an international incident on 7 July 1956 when he presented the Embassy of the Republic of China in Manila with a Chinese flag he had lowered on Itu Aba, where it had been hoisted by the Chinese navy. A month later a landing party from the Republic of Vietnam (i.e. "South Vietnam") raised its flag in the Spratlys.

Principality of Freedomland and Republic of Koneuwe

[Principality of Freedomland and Republic of Koneuwe] image by David Martucci and António Martins-Tuválkin, 12 May 2017

In August 1974 French police arrested a swindler who styled himself the Grand Duke of the Principality of Freedomland, Count Othmar di Schmieder Rocca-Forozata. It would seem as though this Freedomland was not the same territory as Cloma's Freedomland; contradictorily also called the Republic of Koneuwe, it was described as consisting of 74 islands 2,000 miles from Borneo. The flag of this Freedomland was described as a horizontal bicolor of blue over white with a gold crown in the center surmounted by a white flying albatross.

The Philippines occupied seven of the Spratly Islands in 1978 and, after a brief shooting war with the Chinese (both), refused to withdraw. I am uncertain if they still occupy these islands today. The Nationalist Republic of China (Taiwan), navy occupied Itu Aba in 1971 but they were expelled by the Philippine navy in 78.
David Martucci, 07 December 1999