The U.S. has struck a deal with Singapore to deploy one of its P8 Poseidon spy planes in the country this month — a new challenge to China’s territorial claims over islands in the South China Sea.
China on Tuesday said the move was aimed at militarizing the region, Reuters reported.
The aircraft will be stationed in Singapore form Dec. 7 to 14 and further deployments in Singapore could be expected.
The announcement comes as China continues to claim the majority of the waters and islands in the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims. China has also created new islands to house defense equipment and aircraft, in a show of its military strength.
“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, Reuters reported.
The United States already operates P8s from Japan and the Philippines, and has also conducted surveillance flights from Singapore’s neighbor, Malaysia.
In a statement, The U.S. said the new P8 deployment in Singapore would “romote greater interoperability with regional militaries through participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises, while providing timely support for regional [Humanitarian and Disaster Relief operations] and maritime security efforts.”
In May, the Chinese navy issued eight warnings to the crew of a U.S. P8 that flew near the islands, according to CNN, which was aboard the U.S. aircraft.