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Tuesday, December 8, 2015, 12:59

US deploys spy plane in S'pore for 1st time

By Associated Press

US deploys spy plane in S'pore for 1st time
The P-8 Poseidon is parked at the Paya Lebar Airbase in Singapore on Aug 1, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / MOHD FYROL)

WASHINGTON - The United States has deployed a P-8 Poseidon spy plane in Singapore for the first time, amid heightened tensions in the region.

The weeklong deployment in Singapore, which began Monday, came as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met his Singaporean counterpart Ng Eng Hen in Washington and signed a new agreement to step up defense cooperation.

In a joint statement, the two sides said the deployment would promote interoperability among regional militaries in exercises, and provide support for disaster relief and maritime security.

A US defense official said such deployments in Singapore were expected to become a regular occurrence, happening as often as every three months. The official did not have authorization to speak publicly about the plans and requested anonymity.

The US and Singapore have longstanding defense ties. In the Asia-Pacific region, the US has also operated the Poseidon surveillance planes out of Japan and the Philippines, which are both US treaty allies.

In a joint statement after a meeting in Washington on Monday, Carter and Ng welcomed the inaugural deployment of the aircraft in Singapore from Dec 7 to 14.

The statement said the P8 deployment in Singapore would "promote greater interoperability with regional militaries through participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises, while providing timely support for regional HADR and maritime security efforts."

HADR is an acronym for Humanitarian and Disaster Relief operations.

The United States and Singapore have long-standing defense ties and the announcement of the P8 deployment was part of an enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement signed by Carter and Ng, which also covers cooperation in fighting transnational terrorism and piracy.

As part of the Obama administration's effort to step up its regional security presence in Asia, the US has in recent years deployed two littoral combat ships at the Southeast Asian city-state. Monday's statement said the US plans a third deployment next year.

In late October, Washington angered China by sending a warship on a freedom-of-navigation patrol within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit of China's Zhubi Reef in the South China Sea. Beijing has also expressed displeasure over US surveillance flights in the area.

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