China is calling a friendly get-together between soldiers of Vietnam and the Philippines on islands in the South China Sea claimed by Beijing "a clumsy farce," demanding that the two countries cease-and-desist.
The gathering occurred Sunday on the Vietnamese-held island of Southwest Cay in the Spratly Islands. The two sides reportedly played soccer and volleyball in what Philippine naval officials described as a "chance to show there can be harmony despite a web of overlapping claims to the potentially energy-rich waters," Reuters writes.
China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, quoted by Reuters during a daily briefing Monday, emphasized that Beijing has "irrefutable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and the seas nearby."
"Don't you think this small move together by Vietnam and the Philippines is at most a clumsy farce?" Hua said.
"We demand that Vietnam and the Philippines stop any behavior that picks quarrels and causes trouble ... and not do anything to complicate or magnify the dispute," she said.
The Spratly Islands are claimed by not only Vietnam, China and the Philippines, but also Taiwan, Malaysia and the sultanate of Brunei. The incident is the latest in a number of provocations over several small island chains in the South China Sea and East China Sea that have put China at odds with many of its smaller maritime neighbors.
Most recently, Beijing's efforts to establish an oil platform in the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Hanoi, has strained relations with Vietnam, a country it fought in a brief and inconclusive border war in 1979. The Paracel dispute led last month to the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat, reportedly after it was rammed by a Chinese vessel. There has also been an angry backlash in Vietnam, where mobs burned factories owned by mainland and Taiwanese Chinese.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday also accused Vietnam of launching more than 1,400 ramming raids on its ships in the disputed Paracel Islands region.
According to The South China Morning Post, Beijing "has temporarily stopped state-owned companies from bidding for fresh contracts in Vietnam."