Singapore agrees to host US spy planes

2015-12-08 17:54
A US Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft  (AFP)

A US Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft (AFP)

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Singapore - Singapore has for the first time agreed to host a deployment of US spy planes, following the signing of a deal to boost military cooperation, the city-state's Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday.

The P8-Poseidon surveillance aircraft are being deployed to Singapore from December 7 to 14. 

"These deployments promote greater interoperability with regional militaries and provide timely support for regional HADR [Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief] and maritime security efforts," the ministry said in a statement. 

It was not clear how many P8 planes were involved in the deployment.

The Singapore deal enhances the US air presence in the region near the South China Sea, the site of multiple territorial disputes involving China and countries in the region including the Philippines and Vietnam. The US already operates P8 craft from the Philippines and Japan.

"Operationally, having US surveillance aircraft operating out of Singapore means that the US will have better coverage of the the southern part of the South China Sea," said Dr Ja Ian Chong, assistant professor of political science at the National University of Singapore.

Strategic considerations also come into play. "Singapore's strategy over the years has been to involve various major powers in Southeast Asia, including and perhaps especially the US. Having a robust footprint in Singapore for US forces gives the US reason to be more committed to the region than otherwise the case," Chong said.

The deployment of the planes was part of a military cooperation agreement signed by Singapore Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter in Washington DC on Monday.

The agreement covers cyberdefence and biosecurity for the first time.

Tensions over the South China Sea have ramped up in recent months. The US has sent warships and a military plane to disputed areas of the sea in order to underline international rules on freedom of navigation. Beijing has called such actions illegal. 

About $5 trillion of maritime trade passes through the sea each year.

Read more on:    singapore  |  us  |  military

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