05/30/2015, 00.00
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Football, volleyball and karaoke on the disputed islands. Manila and Hanoi strengthen anti-Beijing alliance

Theatre of the "special" exercises in recent days between Vietnamese and the Philippine military personnel on island of Northeast Cay. Philippine official: fun and strengthening "relations" between the two navies. International analysts: Asia "network of informal alliances in evolution" to counter China.

Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The soldiers of Vietnam and the Philippines engaged in football, volleyball and karaoke competitions, on one of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

The special performance of the two armies took place on May 27 and is a signal of further strengthening ties between the two nations of Southeast Asia against Beijing. Hanoi and Manila - now united after decades of enmity - are the two nations that have long running territorial disputes with China, over control of a series of islands and atolls in the Asia-Pacific.

Senior Philippines navy officials claim that the two armies played football and volleyball on the island of Northeast Cay, currently under the control of Manila. Previously, a naval ship from Hanoi had carried about 60 Vietnamese sailors onto the island, who joined the hundreds of Filipinos already stationed in the area.

"Together we had fun" confirmed an official of the Philippine Navy speaking anonymously, because these activities "help to keep up the spirit" and "strengthen relations between our two navies."

Moreover, already last year some Filipino soldiers visited the island of Southwest Cay, a few miles away from Northeast Cay and controlled by Vietnam, for similar activities to those carried out in recent days. Since then the Vietnamese warships have regularly visited Manila and opened a red line between the two sides, to intervene in the rescue of fishermen in distress at sea. They may soon start joint patrols in the seas.

 Analysts and international politics experts define the nascent partnership between the Philippines and Vietnam as part of "a network of informal alliances evolving" throughout Asia, to counter the hegemony of the Chinese giant.

Concern over China’s “imperialism” in the East and South China Seas is not limited to the Philippines. Vietnam too has expressed objections. However, Manila went one step further and took its dispute to a UN tribunal, albeit one without binding authority.

Broadly speaking, China claims a large chunk of the South and East China Seas (almost 85 per cent), including the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.

Southeast Asian nations are backed by the United States. Washington rejects as “illegal" and "irrational" Beijing’s “cow tongue” claim in the South China Sea, which amounts to 80 per cent of 3.5-million km2 wide-sea.

With oil and gas in the seabed, the region has great economic and geopolitical importance with a total turnover of over 5 thousand billion dollars, and carries an important strategic value.

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