The United States Navy will deploy P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft over Singapore for the first time as a response to China’s expanding militaristic armament in the disputed South China Sea.
The U.S. and Singapore announced Monday that the first operation will take place later this month with more likely to follow within the next few months. The announcements came after Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng En Hen visited the Pentagon that day.
Although Singapore is not a party to the multi-national disputes over territorial rights in the South China Sea, the country is concerned over China’s growing military presence in the region.
China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, a strategic region through which millions of ship-borne goods pass through each year. Beijing is currently defending its territorial claims in a lawsuit filed by the Philippines and overseen by an international court in the Netherlands.
Although China maintains it has no intentions of militarizing the region, U.S. officials say it is building 4 airstrips on its artificial islands which can accommodate most military aircraft.
Back in October, the U.S. sent a destroyer within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims and to defend freedom-of-navigation policies drafted by the United Nations.
The US and Singapore said the P-8’s would engage in various exercises and could offer disaster relief and pursue “maritime security efforts.”
While Singapore holds a strong militaristic tie with the U.S., it also maintains a vital economic relation with China.
Beijing has repeatedly condemned the U.S. for launching spy aircraft into the contested region including during one instance in which the U.S. sent a P-8 with a CNN crew on board..