It’s a tactic not seen since the dying days of World War II: desperate soldiers, sailors and pilots flinging themselves at their enemies in suicide attacks.

But Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has warned of the return of the ‘kamikaze’ — or ‘divine wind’ — tactics of the Japanese.

Describing his dilemma in dealing with an immensely more powerful China in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the president said he has few options other than to order troops to “prepare for suicide missions”.

He was referring to recent moves by Beijing to surround the island of Thitu (also known as Pag-asa) with some 270 fishing militia and Coast Guard vessels — both of which are controlled by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs in a statement last week that their presence was “illegal” and a “clear violation of Philippine sovereignty”.

Duterte reminded China in a speech yesterday of its closer ties under his leadership, but said the island occupied by Filipinos in the disputed waters was threatened, “things would be different.”

“Let us be friends, but do not touch Pag-asa Island and the rest,” Duterte said in a speech to public officials.

“I will not plead or beg, but I am just telling you that lay off the Pag-asa because I have soldiers there. If you touch that, that’s a different story. I can tell my soldiers ‘prepare for suicide missions’.”