Vietnamese naval servicemen and Filipino naval servicemen play volleyball during a friendly match on Vietnam-held Song Tu Tay or Southwest Cay island of the disputed Spratly Islands on South China Sea on June 8. Reuters photo
BEIJING - China denounced Vietnam and the Philippines on Monday for getting together on a disputed island in the South China Sea to play soccer and volleyball, calling it "a clumsy farce" and demanded both countries stop causing trouble.
The comments by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying were China's first response to the gathering on the Vietnamese-held island of Southwest Cay on Sunday.
Philippine naval officials described the meeting of soldiers from the two sides as a chance to show there can be harmony despite a web of overlapping claims to the potentially energy-rich waters.
"Don't you think this little strick by Vietnam and the Philippines is at most a clumsy farce? China has irrefutable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and the surrounding waters. We demand that the Philippines and Vietnam stop any behaviour that picks a quarrel and causes trouble, strictly abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and prevent from doing anything that may complicate or magnify the dispute," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news conference in Beijing.
The gathering underscores the growing cooperation between Vietnam and the Philippines, which have both felt China's wrath over the South China Sea, even though both claim Southwest Cay and other islands.
The Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all claim some of the Spratlys, while China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim the whole chain.
China also claims 90 percent of the 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq 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.