The United States has agreed with Singapore on a first deployment of the US P8 Poseidon spy plane in Singapore this month, in a fresh response to China over its pursuit of territorial claims in the South China Sea.
China, which is at odds with Washington over the South China Sea, said on Tuesday (8 Dec 2015) the move was aimed at militarizing the region, Reuters reported.
In a joint statement after a meeting in Washington on Monday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen welcomed the inaugural deployment of the aircraft in Singapore from Dec 7 to 14.
A US defense official said further deployments in Singapore could be expected. The move comes at a time of heightened tensions in the South China Sea.
China claims almost the entire energy-rich waters, through which more than $5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
“I think this kind of increase in military deployment by the United States and pushing regional militarization does not accord with the joint long-term interests of the countries in this region,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.
China believes that Singapore, like other countries in the region, wants to see a peaceful and prosperous Southeast Asia, she added.
The United States already operates P8s from Japan and the Philippines, and has also conducted surveillance flights from Singapore’s neighbor, Malaysia.
The statement said the P8 deployment in Singapore would “promote greater interoperability with regional militaries through participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises, while providing timely support for regional HADR and maritime security efforts.”
HADR is an acronym for Humanitarian and Disaster Relief operations.