Singapore, May 12 (CNA) China and the Philippines should restrain themselves to prevent tensions over their recent South China Sea dispute from escalating beyond a war of words, a Singaporean expert on the issue said Saturday.
Lee Lai To, a senior lecturer with Nanyang Technological University's School of Humanities and Social Sciences, said no parties would gain anything if a military conflict were to break out over a disputed reef in the South China Sea.
The two countries have firmly declared their claims to the disputed Scarborough Shoal, known in Mandarin Chinese as Huangyan Island, after a standoff between vessels of the two countries near the reef in early April.
An anti-China rally attended by hundreds of Filipinos was held in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati in Metro Manila Friday.
Lee said that if China were to take military action, it would destroy the image of its peaceful rise that it has been promoting in recent years, especially because it is much stronger militarily than the Philippines.
It may also give the United States an excuse to get involved in South China Sea disputes, Lee added.
Meanwhile, with the Asian and even the global economy and trade dependent to some extent on China, the Philippines' provocations have led to a suspension of Chinese tour groups to the Southeast Asian country and its fruit exports to China facing more stringent inspections.
While the two countries continue to handle the dispute through diplomatic channels rather than military means, Lee said similar events could continue to trouble the region since the territorial dispute is unlikely to be solved in the near future.
(By Tang Pei-chun and Kay Liu)