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AKIPRESS.COM - China denounced Vietnamese and Philippine troops on Monday for getting together on a disputed island in the South China Sea to drink beer and play volleyball, calling it "a clumsy farce" and demanding that their governments stop causing trouble, Aljazeera reported.
The gathering on the Vietnamese-held Southwest Cay in the contested Spratly archipelago on Sunday was billed as a display of unity that underscored growing cooperation between Vietnam and the Philippines. Both countries, along with China, claim the Southwest Cay, and Hanoi and Manila have felt clashed with China over the disputed South China Sea and its islands.
Philippine naval officials described the meeting of soldiers from the two sides, which also featured soccer and a tug-of-war competition, as a chance to show there can be harmony despite a web of overlapping claims to the potentially energy-rich waters.
But the gesture was certain to anger China, which issued its first response to the gathering on Monday.The Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all claim some of the Spratlys, while China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim the whole chain of islands. China also claims 90 percent of the 1.35 million square-mile South China Sea, its reach depicted on its maps with a so-called nine-dash line deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
Diplomats and experts have described the partnership between Hanoi and Manila as part of a web of evolving relationships across Asia that are being driven by fear of China as well as doubts among some, especially in Japan, over the U.S. commitment to the region.
Separately on Monday, China accused Vietnam of ramming its ships in the South China Sea more than 1,400 times and said while it wanted good relations with its neighbor it would not abandon its principles to achieve that.
A Vietnamese fishing boat sank on May 26 during a confrontation not far from where China has towed an oil rig, accompanied by a cordon of Chinese vessels, about 150 miles off Vietnam’s coast.
The dispute is the most serious deterioration of relations between the rival nations since a brief war in 1979 following Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia.
Shortly after China brought its oil rig into the area, Vietnam sent a large number of vessels into the area, China's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. The rig's deployment also set off anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam last month in which at least four people were killed.