Top 10 Controversial Territorial Disputes

Top 10 Controversial Territorial Disputes

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Nick Roffey

These areas are constantly changing hands. Whether it's Western Sahara, Taiwan, or the Falkland Islands, these places are always being fought over. WatchMojo counts down the ten most controversial land disputes.

Special thanks to our user Lloyd Eksteen for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Controversial%20Territorial%20Disputes

Script written by Nick Roffey

Top 10 Controversial Territorial Disputes

These contested regions continue to spark conflict. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 controversial territorial disputes.

For this list, we’re looking at current territorial disputes and ranking them based on past and present activity, as well as their political impact.

#10: Western Sahara

In 1975, Spain handed Western Sahara over to Morocco and Mauritania, but the indigenous Sahrawi people, who had resisted colonial rule for decades, had other ideas. A new nationalist movement called the Polisario Front demanded independence. Mauritania withdrew a few years into the conflict, leaving the Polisario and Morocco to fight it out. Accusations of human rights violations have been made against both sides, with Morocco reportedly bombing refugee camps with napalm and the sudden “disappearances” of Sahrawi civilians, while the Polisario have been accused of torturing and killing POWs. A ceasefire was agreed upon in 1991, but the Polisario and Moroccan Government remain deadlocked, with Morocco controlling most of the region from behind a massive sand wall.

#9: South China Sea

The South China Sea has long been a source of tension in the region, with many countries making competing territorial claims. A third of worldwide maritime traffic passes through these contested waters, and it’s believed to potentially harbor vast oil reserves. But in recent years, China has brought the situation to a head by building artificial islands and military bases. An international tribunal ruled against China’s claim to historical rights, and the U.S. has sailed naval vessels through the area to promote freedom of navigation. Meanwhile, Chinese state-run media has warned of a “devastating confrontation between China and the US” if their access to the islands is blocked.

#8: Falkland Islands

France was actually first to establish a settlement on this much sought-after archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, but they soon transferred the claim to Spain in 1766 – the same year the British established their own settlement. The British have controlled the islands since 1833, but since gaining independence from Spain in 1816, Argentina has also claimed ownership, which they attempted to assert in 1982 with an invasion of both the Falklands and the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. Argentina’s military junta seemingly hoped that the UK wouldn’t risk open violence, but the gamble didn’t pay off. Responding with force, the British took back the territories in just over 3 months. Nonetheless, both nations continue to claim sovereignty over the territory today.

#7: Cyprus

This Mediterranean island has been fought over by Greek and Turkish forces for decades. For hundreds of years Cyprus was under Ottoman control, until being leased to the British in 1878, before eventually becoming independent in 1960. But while Greek Cypriots wished to become part of Greece, Turkish Cypriots wanted separate Greek and Turkish sectors, resulting in years of unrest. After a Greek junta and Cypriot National Guard staged a coup in 1974, removing their then President Makarios III, Turkey invaded and occupied Northern Cyprus. Their continued occupation is condemned by the international community, and since 2015 both the North and South sides of the island have been in talks about unifying Cyprus once more, but it remains an island paradise divided indefinitely.

#6: Kashmir

When the British partitioned the British Indian Empire into the Dominions of India and Pakistan in 1947, Kashmir descended into chaos. It had a mostly Muslim population, but was ruled by a Hindu Maharaja, who had elected to remain independent. With encouragement from the Muslim League, Muslims revolted. Hindu and Sikh extremists retaliated, massacring thousands of Muslims, which then resulted in violence and killings of Hindus and Sikhs. The dispute has exploded into several conflicts over the decades, and was the motivation behind the tragic 2008 Mumbai attacks, orchestrated by terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

#5: Taiwan

When Mao Zedong’s communist party took control of China in 1949, the defeated government fled to the island of Taiwan. To this day, there has been no lasting solution to the conflict between the People’s Republic of China on the mainland, and the Republic of China in Taiwan. Both continue to claim rights to both the mainland and Taiwan, while growing in opposite economic and political directions. Unofficial support for Taiwan and demand for Taiwanese products, paired with official diplomatic support of the People’s Republic of China, has so far helped to prevent the conflict from escalating, but the situation remains tense. It seems that every time diplomatic relations begin to improve, whispers of independence resurface, resulting in a backslide in the relationship.

#4: Crimea

In 2014 the Russian Federation took advantage of unrest in Ukraine to annex the Crimean peninsula. After years of corruption, revolutionaries ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, who had chosen to strengthen ties with Russia over an association agreement with the European Union. Unmarked Russian soldiers took over the Crimean parliament and installed a pro-Russian government, after which a referendum was soon held, with Crimea allegedly voting to join the Russian Federation. The move was condemned by the U.N. and called unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. Russia had severe economic sanctions brought against it, which has contributed to an ongoing financial crisis.

#3: Tibet

In 1950, Chinese forces invaded Tibet, smashing through Tibetan resistance and incorporating the region into China. But, with covert support from the CIA, Tibetans continued to fight back, culminating in the 1959 Tibetan uprising. It was quickly quelled, with tens of thousands of Tibetans killed, and the Dalai Lama fled to India. China then proceeded to destroy thousands of monasteries, and suppressed Tibetan culture. The socialist land reforms of Mao Zedong’s so-called “Great Leap Forward” contributed to the Great Chinese Famine that killed millions, while his Cultural Revolution left a legacy of violence and destruction. Today, the Tibetan Government in Exile continues to claim sovereignty, but China remains unflinching in its control.

#2: Korea

When Japan relinquished Korea at the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union took charge of the north and the US the south. But Cold War politics ended hopes of peaceful reunification, and with support from the Soviet Union the North invaded the South, precipitating the Korean War. That war ended with an estimated 1.2 million dead and the borders unchanged. However, both North and South Korea continue to claim the whole Korean Peninsula. The North’s aggressive and hyperbolic threats against the South have led to mounting international tension, particularly between North Korea and the US.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Kosovo
- The Standing Rock Protest
- Abkhazia & South Ossetia

#1: Israel & Palestine

This conflict is as polarizing as it is intractable, and has spawned a war with seemingly no end in sight. After the Holocaust, the UN resolved to divide Palestine—which was under British governance—into Arab and Jewish states. For Jewish settlers, this fulfilled the dream of a national homeland, but to Palestinians it seemed like a continuation of colonialism. After subsequent wars, Israel now occupies much of the territory, with extensive settlements in the West Bank. Though a two-state solution has long been the favored potential route to peace, negotiations have repeatedly broken down, with the last round of negotiations starting in 2013 and being suspended in 2014.
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Another Honorable Mention: Ireland %uD83C%uDDEE%uD83C%uDDEA