China paying ‘close attention’ to US plane deployment
The Chinese Defense Ministry says it is paying “close attention” to a deal that has enabled the deployment of US surveillance aircraft to Singapore.
The Chinese ministry said Beijing is keeping tabs on the situation to ensure the deployment would not pose a threat to regional stability.
“We are paying close attention to how the relevant situation develops, and hope bilateral defense cooperation between the relevant countries is beneficial to regional peace and stability and not the opposite,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a brief statement.
The statement came days after US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen met, announcing the inaugural deployment of P8 Poseidon planes to Singapore from December 7-14. The two sides also said that further deployments would most likely follow.
China has been at odds with Washington over the South China Sea. A day after the announcement by the US and Singaporean defense chiefs, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the agreement was aimed at militarizing the region.
In recent weeks, American B-52 bombers have flown near some islands claimed by China in the South China Sea. A US guided-missile destroyer also sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s islands in October.
The Chinese navy has so far issued a number of warnings to the US over its P8 aircraft flying near Chinese islands.
Beijing has, on different occasions, asserted its sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, which serves as a crossing for more than $5 trillion worth of maritime trade annually.
Washington, however, accuses the Chinese of carrying out what it calls a land reclamation program by building artificial islands in the sea near the Spratly Islands, a disputed group of hundreds of reefs, islets, atolls, and islands.
Although Singapore does not lay claims to the South China Sea territories, it has voiced concerns over the developments in the area amid the accusations made by the US against China.
The US already operates P8s from Japan and the Philippines. It has also carried out surveillance flights from Singapore’s neighbor, Malaysia.