US to send spy plane to Singapore

A P-8A of dropping a torpedo. Source: Wikimedia

Washington has agreed with Singapore to deploy a P8 Poseidon spy plane at the city-state this month in a response to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

After a meeting in Washington, US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter and Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen welcomed the deployment.

Apart from his meeting with the US defence secretary, he will meet congressional leaders and commanders in the Pentagon. He is due to speak at the Washington Centre for a New American Security think tank.

The US says further hardware is likely to be sent to the region.

The move is likely to anger Beijing, which seas the South China Sea as within its sphere of influence, not Washington’s.

China lays claim to most of the energy-rich sea, through which more than US$5 trillion of maritime trade passes annually.

The US already operates P8s from Japan and the Philippines and has conducted surveillance flights from Malaysia.

Washington said the latest P8 deployment would “promote greater inter-operability with regional militaries through participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises, while providing timely support for regional HADR [humanitarian and disaster relief operations] and maritime security efforts.”

The USA has long-standing defence ties with the city-state with a new defence cooperation agreement recently signed by Carter and Ng, which also covers cooperation in fighting transnational terrorism and piracy.

The US has been critical of the artificial islands built in the South China Sea. It has recently conducted sea and air patrols near the new islands, angering Beijing.

Last month, US President Barack Obama called for an end to artificial-island building and the militarisation of the South China Sea.

He said the US would continue to promote freedom of navigation but China bullishly replied that it would continue to build military and civilian installations in the region.

Last month, US B52 bombers flew near some of the artificial islands and, in late October, a US guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of one.

In May, China’s naval personnel issued eight warnings to a US P8 flying near some artificial islands, according to a CNN team on board the plane.

China claims to the South China Sea overlap with those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.

China has a parallel dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.

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