U.S. steps up South China Sea surveillance

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US Spy plane in South China Sea

In a response to Beijing’s territorial assertive claims in the South China Sea, the U.S. agreed to send a new sophisticated spy plane to Singapore later month.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, in a joint statement with Singapore Defense Minister, celebrated the the agreement and implementation of the spy plane which will be in the area between December 7 and December 14.

An official from the U.S. Department of Defense said there will be more deployments. The deployment comes amid tensions over Beijing’s forceful sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

The move is likely to bother Beijing which claims almost the entire resource-rich area as part of Beijing. Over $5 trillion worth of sea trade passes every year through the sea.

The highly sophisticated aircraft is already operated by the U.S. in the Philippines and Japan, and also performs intelligence-gathering flights from Malaysia, Singapore’s neighbor.

The announcement said the deployment of the reconnoissance plane to Singapore would “promote greater inter-operability 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.“

Singapore and the U.S. defense ties are longstanding and the statement of the spy plane being sent to the area is part of an updated Defense Cooperation Agreement the U.S. Defense Secretary and Singapore’s Minister of Defense signed, which in also covers cooperation in areas of anti-piracy and anti-transnational terrorism operations.

The U.S. has criticized Beijing’s development in the South China Sea’s disputed Spartly archipelago of artificial islands, and has recently operated air and sea surveillance near the man-made islands.

President Obama, last month, asked countries to halt the construction of man-made islands in the South China Sea. Obama said the America would continue to use the sea as part of its right of freedom-of-navigation.

Beijing responded to Obama by saying Beijing would continue to construct both civilian and military facilities on the man-made islands in the South China Sea.

The U.S. has been attempting to strengthen its defense relationships with countries who have rival claims against Beijing over sovereignty of the sea, which include Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

U.S. bombers conducted an operation last month in which bombers flew near some of China’s man-made islands, and towards the end of October a U.S. destroyer traveled within twelve nautical miles of one of the islands.

In May of this year, Beijing’s Navy gave 8 warnings to the crew of a U.S. spy plane that went near the man-made islands, according to a report by CNN, which had a person on board the U.S. spy plane at the time of the incident.