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Philippines, Vietnam to hold 'fun games' in Spratlys

Philippine and Vietnamese troops plan to hold joint "fun games" in the Spratlys to calm tensions over the disputed island chain in the South China Sea, the Philippine navy chief said Tuesday.

The islands, also claimed by China, are regarded as one of Asia's most dangerous potential flashpoints but there will be no weapons involved, said Vice Admiral Alexander Pama.
"We will be sending some of our boys to their occupied islands and they will also be sending their boys to our occupied islands," Pama told correspondents, dubbing it "fun games."

"They will actually be doing games, like basketball or soccer (and) there will be no firearms (training) involved."

Pama said the joint activity was part of an agreement with his Vietnamese counterpart who accompanied President Truong Tan Sang on a visit to Manila late last year.
Apart from the games, he said troops from both sides would also boost information sharing on the weather and search and rescue operations involving fishermen who may run into trouble in disputed areas.

Asked whether other claimants to the Spratlys could also be invited to take part in the games, Pama replied: "There are no discussions along those lines."
The Spratlys is a group of islets and atolls believed to be potentially rich in mineral and gas deposits.

China and Taiwan both claim the entire South China Sea, which is called the West Philippine Sea by Manila, while the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam have overlapping claims to parts of it.

The Philippines and Vietnam have both accused China of increasingly flexing its military muscle in the region, despite a pledge from all claimants to avoid actions that could further stoke tensions.

Manila last year accused the Chinese military of firing on Filipino fishermen, laying buoys and harassing an oil exploration vessel in waters that fall within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Regional leaders at a summit in Cambodia last week reaffirmed a commitment to settle the row peacefully by crafting a code of conduct in the area, but were divided over China's participation in the discussion.

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Yahoo News | April 11, 2012 | Article Link

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