x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Fun games, not war games for Philippines and Vietnam

Basketball and football - not guns.

MANILA //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 says.

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," Mr Pama told correspondents, dubbing it "fun games", not war games.

"They will actually be doing games, like basketball or football [and] there will be no firearms involved."

Mr 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 and straddling vital sea lanes.

China and Taiwan both claim the entire South China Sea. The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam have overlapping claims to parts of it.