US Surveillance Plane Deployed To Singapore

December 8, 2015 – Singapore’s Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen and his United States counterpart Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter welcomed the inaugural deployment of the P8 Poseidon aircraft to Singapore from Dec 7 to 14.

Early this morning, the two countries signed an enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) at the Pentagon in Washington DC.

Signed on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the 10th anniversary of the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) between the US and Singapore, the enhanced DCA provides an ambitious and forward-looking framework for defence cooperation.

Dr Ng and Mr Carter noted that the aircraft’s deployment would promote greater interoperability with regional militaries through participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises, while providing timely support for regional HADR (Humanitarian and Disaster Relief) and maritime security efforts.

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 over China’s pursuit of territorial claims there.

The US deployment is likely to anger China, which is at odds with Washington over the South China Sea. China claims almost the entire energy-rich sea, through which more than US$5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year.

The United States already operates P8s from Japan and the Philippines, and has also conducted surveillance flights from Singapore’s neighbour Malaysia.

Washington has criticised China’s building of artificial islands in the South China Sea’s disputed Spratly archipelago, and has conducted sea and air patrols near them recently.

Last month, US President Barack Obama called on countries to stop building artificial islands in the sea and militarising their claims. He said the United States would continue to assert its freedom-of-navigation rights. China responded by saying it would continue to build both military and civilian facilities on the islands.

There have also been several bilateral incidents heightening tensions in the area.

Last month, US B-52 bombers flew near some of China’s artificial islands and, at the end of October, a US guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of them. In May, the Chinese navy issued eight warnings to the crew of a US P8 that flew near the islands, according to CNN, which was aboard the aircraft.

Washington has been working to build up defense relationships with South China Sea rival claimants, which include Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.