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Asia and the Pacific

Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area (or 30% of its land area) and with approximately 4.3 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population. During the 20th century Asia's population nearly quadrupled.

Asia is usually defined as comprising the eastwards four-fifths of Eurasia. It is located to the east of the Suez Canal and the Ural Mountains, and south of the Caucasus Mountains (or the Kuma-Manych Depression) and the Caspian and Black Seas. It is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Indian Ocean and on the north by the Arctic Ocean.

Given its size and diversity, Asia – a toponym dating back to classical antiquity – "is more a cultural concept" incorporating diverse regions and peoples than a homogeneous physical entity. Asia differs very widely among and within its regions with regard to ethnic groups, cultures, environments, economics, historical ties and government systems.

Different sources give different estimates of the area enclosed by the imaginary border of Asia. The New York Times Atlas of the World gives 43,608,000 km2 (16,837,000 sq mi).[1] Chambers World Gazetteer rounds off to 44,000,000 km2 (17,000,000 sq mi),[2] while the Concise Columbia Encyclopedia gives 44,390,000 km2 (17,140,000 sq mi).[3] The 2011 Pearson's has 44,030,000 km2 (17,000,000 sq mi).[4] The methods of obtaining these figures and exactly what areas they include have not been divulged.

The map surface of mainland Asia is entirely contained within a Geodetic quadrangle formed from segments of latitude going through its north and south extremes and segments of longitude passing through the east and west extremes. Cape Chelyuskin is at 77° 43' N; Cape Piai in the Malay Peninsula is at 1° 16' N; Cape Baba in Turkey is at 26° 4' E; Cape Dezhnyov is at 169° 40' W; that is, mainland Asia ranges through about 77° of latitude and 195° of longitude,[5] distances of about 8,560 km (5,320 mi) long by 9,600 km (6,000 mi) wide according to Chambers, or 8,700 km (5,400 mi) long by 9,700 km (6,000 mi) wide according to Pearson's.

Indonesia to the southeast, a nation consisting of thousands of islands, adds a significant amount of territory to mainland Asia and extends the extreme Asian latitude further south. The geographic nature of the country raises such questions as whether the sea and the seabed count as Asia. The Australia–Indonesia border is still being negotiated. Currently a 1997 treaty remains unratified. As there are questions of fishing rights in the waters and mineral rights in the seabed, two different boundaries are being negotiated, one for the water column and one for the seabed. The southernmost seabed boundary is 10° 50' S, the latitude of Point A3, the Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea common tripoint. The southernmost water column boundary is still further south at Point Z88, 13° 56' 31.7".

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