Vietnamese and Philippine naval forces planned to play football, volleyball and tug-of-war Sunday in the first such display of camaraderie in the Spratly Islands in the South China sea where territorial rifts with China have flared.
Can culture always be used as a tool for positive public diplomacy?
Protesters staged one of Vietnam's largest ever anti-China demonstrations on Sunday, decrying Beijing's deployment of a deep-water drilling rig in contested waters as territorial tensions soar. Some 1,000 people, from war veterans to students, waved banners saying "China don't steal our oil" and "Silence is cowardly" – a dig at Hanoi's handling of the dispute –and sang patriotic songs in a park opposite the Chinese embassy.
Vietnam has arrested two democracy activists for posting articles critical of the government on the Internet, signalling a continued crackdown on dissent despite the early release of three dissidents last month.
The Philippine navy will soon return to a South China Sea island it lost to Vietnam 40 years ago to drink beer and play volleyball with Vietnamese sailors, symbolising how once-suspicious neighbours are cooperating in the face of China's assertiveness in disputed waters.
The mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has drawn nearly every navy with a presence in Southeast Asia to aid in the search effort. The United States easily has the biggest and best equipped navy in the Pacific and was fast to participate after the flight carrying 239 passengers and crew vanished from radar on Saturday.