The Philippines’ SCS strategy, meanwhile, is motivated by a perceived Chinese westward push at its expense. Despite long administering the largest features in the Spratlys, Manila’s military capabilities are limited. The occupation of Mischief Reef came about two years after the removal of the U.S. bases, and marked the point at which the much talked-about “China threat” became a reality. Since then, Beijing has intensified its fortifications and naval presence in the area. As a militarily disadvantaged state, Manila’s fallback rested on its 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the U.S.. But warming Sino-U.S. relations, especially on the economic front, may put limits on what Manila can expect from its traditional ally. The fear that a Sino-U.S. understanding on the SCS, wherein Washington tacitly acquiesces to Beijing consolidating its position in the semi-enclosed sea, may also become an emerging consideration, making it imperative for the Philippines to diversify its security partners to give it more room for independent action. Nonetheless, the U.S. remains important to the Philippines for trade and security, despite the ups and downs in relations. Manila closed the U.S. bases in Subic and Clark in 1991 but allowed U.S. forces to come back in 1999 through the Visiting Forces Agreement, and has since been a major ally in the war against terrorism. Manila is a natural partner in Washington’s rebalancing strategy. The Philippines is also strengthening ties with Japan, which has its own disputes with China, in the East China Sea. This power web can help the Philippines absorb retaliatory measures from China, and as such may have emboldened Manila to take a stand against Beijing.