"The Philippines has set off on a risky mission to do what no nation in the region has managed to do: thwart China in its drive to control the vast waters around it."
China's most daring adversary in Southeast Asia is, by many measurements, ill-suited for a fight. The Philippines has a military budget one-fortieth the size of Beijing's, and its navy cruises through contested waters in 1970s hand-me-downs from the South Vietnamese.
From that short-handed position, the Philippines has set off on a risky mission to do what no nation in the region has managed to do: thwart China in its drive to control the vast waters around it.
Analysts say the Philippines' strategy, in standing up to Asia's powerhouse, is just as likely to backfire as succeed. But it provides a crucial test case as smaller countries debate whether to deal with China as a much-needed economic partner, a dangerous maritime aggressor, or both.
The Philippines doesn't view China exclusively as a threat, officials here say, noting that trade between the countries is growing. The Philippines has also used caution at times, most notably by holding off on provocative plans to drill in what could be the nation's richest oil and gas field. But analysts point to a series of steps taken in recent months that suggest that Manila is increasingly willing to confront Beijing. They also note that the Philippines has suspended or canceled several development deals that depended on generous Chinese aid.