The Philippines, a normally quiet claimant in South China Sea
disputes, is mounting unusually bold resistance against China as it
edges in on Manila's maritime interests.
The Philippines accused China today of violating a 2002
nonaggression pact when Chinese government ships prevented Filipino
authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen whom the Philippines
say were illegally encroaching.
It is the latest in a series of unusually bold moves by the
Philippines in its mounting multilayered resistance against China as
it edges in on Manila's maritime interests. Philippine officials
have grilled the Chinese ambassador, proposed an elaborate dispute-
resolution plan to its Southeast Asian neighbors, and bought two
former US coast guard ships to help its navy to hold off China.
"The Philippines has come to the conclusion over the past couple
of years that China is growing more determined to assert its
claims," says Scott Harold, associate political scientist with The
RAND Corp., a US-based policy research institution. "As China has
grown more determined to assert its claims, the Philippines has
moved to rebuild its defense cooperative relations with the United
States," a staunch ally.
Manila's campaign hit high gear this month after Chinese ships
blocked Philippine attempts to arrest the crews of eight Chinese
fishing boats near Scarborough Shoal, a coral reef 230 kilometers
(143 miles) west of the main Philippine island of Luzon. But its
vigilance had been rising since 2009 as resource-hungry China crept
'Not just another spat'
Manila's response to China under President Benigno Aquino III,
seen as stronger than his predecessors on foreign policy, may not be
just another two-way spat over the vast ocean area that has been a
historical source of multilateral disputes.
It could pit China against the US, which wants to keep its
historic military and economic hold on Asia, and add pressure on
Beijing to enter negotiations, during which analysts say it would be
humiliated by smaller countries with weaker militaries but more
clearly defined claims to the sea - and stronger US backing.
"There is a complex dynamic in the South China Sea with all the
actors acting and reacting to one another," says Bonnie Glaser,
senior fellow with the US think tank Center for Strategic and
International Studies in Washington.
The United States, former colonizer of the Philippines and a
strong modern-day ally, posted 4,500 personnel to a Philippine
island along the South China Sea for annual war games on April 14.
Manila is also planning to buy a squadron of F-16 fighter jets from
the US, Philippine media have reported.
On Wednesday China warned the Philippines not to
"internationalize" the issue and force other countries to take
Before 2010 the Philippines would verbally remind countries of
its claim to the 220 barely populated islets across the sea, which
is rich in fisheries, prime shipping lanes, and possible undersea
reserves of oil or natural gas. …